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Bishop O’Connell High School students celebrate Black History Month

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February was Black History Month, and students at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington found a variety of ways to reflect and celebrate. The stage was set at the beginning of the month as two students joined the morning announcement team each day to include a fact or two about African-American achievements. This continued for the rest of the month.


“I loved being able to share daily facts on well-known and lesser-known historical figures,” said senior Rachel Dudley. “Our hope was that these anecdotes would serve as a starting point for all our fellow students to want to learn more.”


Senior religion classes taught by David Owens took a field trip Feb. 20 to visit historically black Catholic churches in Baltimore. The special tour included stops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site and the Our Lady of Mount Providence Convent. The students enjoyed the experience, and were amazed to discover the contributions African-Americans had in Catholicism.


“Honestly, my favorite part was meeting Coach Owens’ seventh-grade teacher and being able to see where his passion for young people comes from,” said senior Abby Dinegar.


Students worked together to host a school-wide Black History Month Assembly Feb. 22 themed on the era of the Tuskegee Airmen, as suggested by event moderator and art teacher Trent Jones. Students quickly worked to make this vision a reality. There were many afterschool and lunchtime practices specifically dedicated to create presentation ideas and rehearse content that would be a part of the assembly. When the day finally came for showtime, students sat in the auditorium filled with excitement.


The assembly began with a Mass that featured guest homilist Josephite Father Michael L. Thompson, the superior general of the Josephite religious community, which is dedicated to serving African-American Catholics. Father Thompson also stopped by a fourth-period religion class to share in a discussion about his own vocation.


After Mass, the assembly began with a drumline procession with color-bearers displaying flags from different African countries. This was followed by presentations. Jerry Burton, the president of the East Coach Chapter of the Tuskekee Airmen’s Association, talked about the important accomplishments of this group of African-American pilots during World War II. He then introduced William Fauntroy, one of the 1944 Tuskegee Airmen, who then humbly shared his story and memories from those early days of the war. The whole auditorium was moved and treated this special guest to a standing ovation. The rest of the assembly continued with numerous student acts of singing, dancing and trivia games.


So many students were grateful for the platform that O’Connell provided to showcase where they come from. O’Connell’s family is made up of different backgrounds, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. In the words of Father Thompson, “Let us celebrate those great people of color, during this Black History Month and every month, those who have gone before us making a difference. We too must come behind them continuing the journey and making our own history.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018