This February, students, educators, and families across School District 65 participated in a series of activities and events as part of the district’s commitment to Black student success. The intent of these activities is to intentionally affirm and celebrate Black students in Evanston/Skokie and our shared values for an equitable and racially just public school system.

Championed by the District 65 Educators’ Council (DEC) — the district’s teachers union –  in partnership with district administrators and school PTAs, students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade reflected upon lessons on Black history, intersectional Black identities, and institutional racism as part of Black Lives Matter in Schools Week of Action (February 4-8). “We view this as an important opportunity for district educators to promote equity work and connect to a global network of individuals striving to create better lives for young, Black people,” said Meg Krulee, DEC President.

As part of the week’s activities, over 200 students from all grade levels in nearly all District 65 schools attended the district’s first Black Student Affinity Group. Students enjoyed lunch and a theatrical performance by Free Lunch Academy entitled, ‘Love Conquers All. They also participated in a “pep rally” to shout out schools and joined peers from their grade level groups (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) to take part in “icebreakers” and meet and talk with students from other D65 schools as well as Kingsway, Family Focus, and Fleetwood-Jourdain’s out-of-school groups.

In addition, on February 6, District 65 convened the first of two community-based restorative sharing circles at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. The event brought together nearly 30 participants from around the community for candid and authentic dialogue around issues of race, racism, and hate as a way to identify actionable opportunities to become an Anti-Racist community. A second sharing circle will be held on Wednesday, February 27 at Beth Emet Synagogue (1224 Dempster Street) from 6-8pm. Childcare and Spanish interpretation will be provided. All staff, students, families, and residents are invited to attend.

On February 7, Evanston Township High School hosted the 22nd annual African-American Youth Achievement (AAYA) Awards honoring 38 African-American students from Evanston/Skokie public schools. Students were recognized for their daily actions that pay homage to the visions and legacy of African-American pioneers.

“I am proud of the commitment of our community in planning these special moments and opportunities to celebrate African-American and Black history and culture. While these efforts are undoubtedly important, we recognize that it takes more than just a dedicated week or month of activities, ” said Superintendent Paul Goren. “We have to make sure every day is one that both honors and affirms the Black student community; that all lessons are culturally relevant; and that we are continuing to identify and break down barriers that may cause harm to Black students. Our goal is to ensure that all members of our community feel respected, valued, and welcome in District 65.”