Sandy Spring Friends School



Updates from the OIEJB: Lunar New Year and Black History Month 2024

Updates from the OIEJB: Lunar New Year and Black History Month 2024

Lunar New Year: The Year of the Dragon

Lunar New Year 2024

2024 is the year of the dragon. The Dragon holds a significant place as an auspicious and extraordinary creature, unparalleled in talent and excellence. It symbolizes power, nobility, honor, luck, and success. Many people who celebrate Lunar New Year believe that if someone is seeking a shift in their current lives, this year might offer a favorable chance, as 2024 is forecasted to bring about opportunities and changes.

Lunar New Year Background

Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, among others. China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết.

Tied to the lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time for feasting and to honor household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors. The New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar—until the full moon arrives.

The Chinese zodiac, or Sheng Xiao (生肖), is a repeating 12-year cycle of animal signs and their ascribed attributes, based on the lunar calendar. In order, the zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. In 2024, Lunar New Year begins on February 10. 

Black History Month

Black History Month

Black History Month Background

Black History Month came to be through the efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. In 1915 Dr. Woodson formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), and in 1916 that organization started the Journal of Negro History, dedicated to publishing “researcher’s findings on the historical achievements of Black individuals” (NY Times, “How Negro History Week Became Black History Month” February 2021). Dr. Woodson had the goal of “...going back to that beautiful history…to inspire us to greater achievements.” He announced the first Negro History Week in February, 1926.

Dr. Woodson chose February because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays (February 12 and 14, respectively) are celebrated during that month. Since 1897 Mary Church Terrell, a Washington D.C. educator and community activist, had celebrated with her classes “Frederick Douglass Day” on February 14, and following Lincoln’s assassination many African Americans began celebrating his birthday. Woodson and his colleagues at the ASNLH saw Negro History Week as a way to expand the celebration of Black Americans’ contributions past those two figures; they developed K-12 curricula, lesson plans, posters, important dates and biographical information.

Citizens in West Virginia–where Dr. Woodson lectured frequently–began celebrating what they called Negro History Month in 1940; by 1950, the year that Dr. Woodson died, mayors across the country supported Negro History Week. In 1974, civil rights leaders Bayard Rustin (a Quaker) and Dorothy Height, among others, pressed President Gerald Ford to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to racial justice and moral leadership. In 1976 Ford used the platform of the nation’s bicentennial celebration to issue a statement about the importance of Black History to all Americans, and the annual national celebration of the holiday began.

SSFS Honors Black History Month

On campus, the Lower School is starting a rotating History Month community art project. 1st grade students will learn about Paul R. Williams, an influential Black architect whose work included landmark buildings in L.A. and residences for Hollywood greats such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. 1st graders will create artwork examining the geometric shapes used in architectural design, and present their art and what they’ve learned to other Lower School students and teachers. In future months, other grades will take the lead on educating their peers. LS OIEJB coordinator Philip Mallari will provide resources from Social Justice Books, Teaching for Change, and other learning databases. These resources will help them develop lessons appropriate to their age group and relevant to their curriculums and students' interests. A bulletin board in Walbrooke will display children’s books that represent the diversity of the Black community and the richness of Black History. 

In Middle School, the Black Affinity Group is brainstorming ideas for the decorations/bulletin board, and as is standard practice, MS coordinator Terrell Davis will partner with our Information Guides to curate a book display from which students can borrow. Middle school advisory will offer trivia as part of at least one lesson, and middle school students will put together a small presentation to share during community time. Terrell will share resources with teachers that they can incorporate in their classes. 

In Upper School, the Black Student Affinity Group is preparing slides that will run on the screens in Pen Y Bryn, Hartshorne, and the Dorm during February, and students will have an opportunity to show what they know on a quiz that will be available later in the month. Candice helped organize a guest speaker for a Black Student Affinity Group meeting, Dana Scott is helping prepare an assembly of student  performances, and Beatrice Adewole helped to mount a visual art display in the Upper School Atrium. The OIEJB will coordinate with Information Guides to offer a cart of books for US students to check out, and offer content to Upper School teachers for curricular inclusion.

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