Black Heritage, Excellence, Futures

Ms. Kat Rogers-Hern, MYP & DP Teacher

The programming for this year’s Black Heritage, Excellence, Futures assemblies was nothing short of aspirational. Students from across the continuum shone in performances that offered entertainment, inspiration, and meaningful opportunities for deep critical thinking. Under the leadership of Andrew Craig, the quality of our February assemblies has improved year over year, but 2024 was one for the books. In both assemblies, students were treated to dance performances of Banaha (the Soldiers Song from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) by the Grade 7 students, along with a challenging arrangement of Duke Ellington’s I’m Beginning to See the Light expertly handled by the Jazz Band. In his opening land acknowledgements, Mr. Craig encouraged the community to reflect on our relationships with the land and each other, while Binty Koroma of Afro-Tribal Dance in Guelph had students and faculty alike on their feet at the end of the assemblies, dancing together in celebration of Black heritage, excellence, and futures. 

Students took the lead on meaningful presentations in both assemblies. In the Lower School assembly, students in Grade 4 shared Myron Rolle’s story of Black excellence, along with their own inspiring hopes for the future, encouraging their peers not to settle for just one dream. The Grade 6 classes continued the thread of Black excellence with a presentation about Ainara’s Bookshelf, showing their peers that children have a very real capacity to change the world. The students’ own ideas for improving our world were inspiring, helping us all to envision a brighter future. Finally, the Senior Kindergarten students presented a charming rendition of the pourquoi tale Hot Hippo, giving us insight into why hippos (sometimes) live in water. Presentations were tied together by the expert hosting of students Jaden (Gr. 3) and Chierika (Gr. 5). It stands out to me that these same grades also took the lead on elements of last year’s assembly; how wonderful it is for our students to move through the Lower School anticipating their leadership roles in this important event. 

I had the pleasure of co-coordinating the Upper School assembly. From the sound booth at the back of the Chapel, I couldn’t help but be struck by the tremendous leadership and—in some cases—vulnerability of our students. It is not a stretch to say that this year’s assembly left everyone with something to think about. Marli presented on behalf of the Grade 10 science classes, who had learned about the incredible work of young scientist Heman Bekele in discovering a skin cancer fighting soap. Marli also worked with Zachie on a moving and thought-provoking presentation about racial identity, which was followed by a truly excellent cello solo by Zachie. Grade 11 and 12 students from the DP history, geography, chemistry, business management, and economics classes laid the groundwork for the centerpiece of this year’s assembly by delivering micro-presentations about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the element cobalt. Following their presentations, talented debaters from Grades 7 to 11 took to the stage for a spirited debate about the ethics of lithium ion batteries. Students and faculty alike benefited from their deep research and well-crafted speeches, which encouraged us to consider the high cost of cobalt mining in the DRC. Cobalt is an essential element in these batteries. Finally, Zoe and Ehrlich shared a beautiful poetic interpretation of the book How We Ended Racism, which the DP1s had been discussing in theory of knowledge. Guided by the excellent hosting of Bella (Gr. 11) and Zara (Gr. 7), it was incredible to see the wide range of performances by students across the Upper School continuum. Curriculum connections were strong, critical thinking was on full display, and the student presenters offered meaningful suggestions and hopes for the future. 

St. John's Kilmarnock School

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