BAY VILLAGE

As part of February’s Black History Month events, Bay Village students are undertaking a 28-day challenge focused on Black excellence in the hopes it will give them the opportunity to experience Black culture both inside and outside school.

“This isn't meant to be a classroom-only experience,” said Director of Teaching and Learning Char Shryock. “Learning is a lifelong process and that is also true for Black History Month.”

Created by the district’s Diversity and Equity Committee, the challenge has students experiencing Black culture through music, literature and movies. Lessons will be taught in class, but students also can further their education outside of school. Each week, students will complete three things or one big thing from an interactive calendar outlining special events.

Students can listen to podcasts or read books about what it’s like to be Black in America. They can experience artists such as Alabama Shakes, Alicia Keys and Bill Withers. The program is designed to fit multiple interests a student may have, said Holly Schafer, the district’s director of human resources.

Celebrating Black History Month is not limited to the students. Parents are encouraged to participate. For more information about the challenge, go to restart.bayschoolsohio.org.

“I think this challenge is great because I wanted to find ways to celebrate the Black community,” said social studies teacher Ashley Nelson. “I didn’t want to always focus on things like slavery and the civil rights movement.”

The challenge will also focus on celebrating Black-owned businesses, Shryock said.

The committee made up of 20 educators from the district created the program to improve how they teach Black history. The challenge is part of the district's increased efforts to stand up for social justice, Shryock said.

About 9% of class time is spent teaching Black history, according to a study by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Oberg Research. When students get tested on things such as slavery and civil rights, they often receive failing grades.

The Diversity and Equity Committee formed last summer to improve how the district handles racial diversity. More than 93% of Bay Village residents are white, while just 1% are Black, according to information provided by neighborhoodscout.com.

“Perspective is the one thing that I hope my children get from this challenge,” said school board member Dave Vegh. “It can be challenging to do in Bay Village, let’s be frank here. Once our students gain both perspective and empathy, then change can begin.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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