ISOKAN, Thayer Academy’s Black student union, kicked off Black History Month Feb. 3 with a multifaceted presentation before the Upper School community in the CFA’s Hale Theater.
Upper School Assistant Dean of Students Brandon Odom ‘04, who also serves as associate director of Admissions, led things off by playing a YouTube video of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — which is often referred to as “The Black National Anthem” — as performed by Kirk Franklin and Choir. Odom discussed the origin of the song (lyrics by James Weldon Johnson / music by John Rosamond Johnson) and its subsequent role as a rallying cry during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Upper School Director of Studies and History Faculty Lynette Sumpter offered a land acknowledgment, noting that the Academy is located on the ancestral lands of the Massachusett and Wampanoag tribes. She also spoke of her own African American heritage and shared a few personal memories with the audience. Sumpter expressed thanks for the celebration of Black joy and excellence but added such celebrations are not reserved for a particular day or month.
The Harlem Renaissance was the topic of Martin Nyagilo ‘24 and Summer Perry ‘24, who discussed the cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s when Black artists sought to take control of the representation of African Americans in society. The students highlighted the contributions of such people as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Teri Homicile ‘24 and Annadelle Agbonjiazoe ‘25 recited Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise” before Odom, accompanied on keyboard by Tatiana Allen ‘23, performed a stirring rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come,” a song written and made famous by Sam Cooke.
Gibson Akoh ‘23 provided a strong finish to the morning as he presented the life of Black students on campus via a video featuring Black members of the Thayer community both past and present.