Celebrating Black History Month

As part of Cresskill Middle/High School’s Black History Month celebration, students in grades 6-12 are being offered three separate screenings of Black Panther via an optional sign-up. Screenings are taking place on the mornings of Monday, February 13th, Thursday, February 23rd and Tuesday, February 28th in the Middle/High School cafeteria. The film is not only being celebrated as the first Marvel movie of its kind with a black director, a black lead actor and a majority black supporting cast, but also for its Afrofuturistic treatment of Black History and contemporary culture that raises questions about the past, present, and future. At each screening, separate groups of students watch the film, and then engage in student-led discussions based on a series of reflective prompts designed to grow their thinking. Discussion questions include: 

  • Why is Black Panther considered an Afrofuturist movie?  What are some examples from the movie that show it is part of this genre?  

  • Why do Killmonger’s actions and ideas appeal to so many people?  Do you believe Killmongers reasons for wanting to take over Wakanda and its resources were valid?  Why or why not?  Is Killmonger a real villain?  

  • Right before Killmonger dies, he says, “Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.” What history is he referring to?  What are your thoughts about the choice he made?

  • What is unique about the female characters in the film? (Dora Milaje, Shuri, Nakia) What did you think of the way the movie portrays women in usually “male” roles -- i.e. tech expert, warrior general, spy, etc.? What message does that convey to viewers?

  • According to the movie, what type of world should exist?  In what ways does our world fall short in being this way? 

  • How did your thinking about this film grow and change based on your conversation today? 

  • What would be a good discussion question for the next screening? 

Within the elementary schools,  students in grades K-5 are enjoying read-alouds of the book Your Name is a Song, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. This story is about a little girl who is frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, and who tells her mother that she never wants to come back to school. In response, her mother teaches her the musicality of African names. On their lyrical walk home from school through the city, the girl’s mother emphasizes that Asian, Black American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names all have beautiful rhythm and song. Through the story, our students will learn the importance of a name, the beauty and history behind our names, and take pride in their identities. Students will be engaging in various activities that celebrate cultures and diversity as they learn about each other’s uniqueness. Discussion questions include: 

  • What would you do if no one could pronounce your name on the first day of school?

  • Has anyone ever said or spelled your name wrong? How did that make you feel? What did you do? Or what did you want to do?

  • How do you show respect when using each other’s names? How can you be sure you are pronouncing a person’s name correctly?

  • What does identity mean? How do people’s names relate to their identity? What might your name tell others about your identity?

Check out this link for a short video capturing the impact of how caring about each other's names and how to say them celebrates who we are each and every day.