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Undefeated

CARE Club members led Middle School Chapel on February 1, the first day of Black History Month, bringing into focus efforts that they will be taking to fight injustice and highlight people who have been marginalized in society.

The club's efforts will extend well beyond the month of February. Members will speak each week during the Season of Nonviolence, a worldwide movement that takes place annually between January 30 (the day in 1948 when Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated) and April 4 (the day in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated). The aim is to cultivate peace, love, and nonviolence.

To start this effort, the club brought recognition to Black American triumphs.

Mrs. Rodgers, English Teacher and Breakthrough at Norfolk Academy Director, who also advises the CARE Club, began the chapel by offering a history of Black History Month. In the 1920s, Carter G. Woodson, a teacher, historian, author, and journalist, established a week of recognition of Black achievement. He chose the second week of February because it overlapped with birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, a statesman, abolitionist, orator and author.

In 1976, the week was extended to a month-long celebration.

“Although we should recognize people who have been marginalized in society because of racial injustice at all times during the year, it’s important to take the time to focus on the achievements of Americans whose voices have been suppressed and underrepresented in history books," Mrs. Rodgers said. “Black History Month is a time to celebrate our history because the endeavors of these incredible people have impacted all of our lives and the American way of life. They fought and continue to fight for freedom and equality in a world that is marred by racial and social injustice."

Zoe Jones '24, Mrs. Rodgers, and Mr. Ryan Tucker, Middle School History and English Teacher, then read the award-winning poem and book The Undefeated. Author Kwame Alexander originally wrote and performed the poem, a celebration of Black life in America, for The Undefeated, a division of sports programming network ESPN that addresses race and culture. 

Toward the end of this month, Mr. Alexander will speak virtually with Norfolk Academy students in all three divisions, as the school's guest author for a Seminar Day titled Issues in Social Justice. Students will be able to ask Mr. Alexander questions and hear him read.

Alexander originally read the poem in a video for The Undefeated website. The video highlighted accomplished athletes like Jackie Robinson (who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier), Althea Gibson (the first African American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships and Wimbledon), and Jesse Owens (track and field star who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics).

But it also highlights lesser-known figures, like Reece Whitley, a 21-year-old swimmer who could compete in the Olympics this summer. Both his parents are doctors and he might pursue a career in pharmaceutical business after his swimming career.

It looks toward future success for those who have not yet been discovered. “This is for you, and you, and you. This is for us," the poem concludes. 

Illustrated by Kadir Nelson, the book won many awards, including the Caldecott Medal as the top picture book for children and a Newbery Honor for outstanding contributions to children’s literature. 

Areen Syed '24 explained that CARE Club's first Season of Nonviolence activity is an art competition saluting the heroes in Mr. Alexander's work. Student submissions will be displayed, with a winner chosen toward the end of this month. 

“Art is such a great way to convey a message and we want to know what your thoughts and feelings are after reading this book," Areen said. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about our country’s history."


Watch Kwame Alexander's reading of The Undefeated

 

Zoe Jones '24, Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers, and Mr. Ryan Tucker read Kwame Alexander's poem The Undefeated.

Zoe Jones '24, Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers, and Mr. Ryan Tucker read Kwame Alexander's poem The Undefeated during Middle School Chapel on February 1, 2021. 

Zoe Jones '24, Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers, and Mr. Ryan Tucker read Kwame Alexander's poem The Undefeated.

Zoe Jones '24, Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers, and Mr. Ryan Tucker read Kwame Alexander's poem The Undefeated during Middle School Chapel on February 1, 2021. 

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