Supts eNews - Feb. 1, 2022

Celebrating diversity in February
Dr. Rudolph picture
Dear Parents,

I’ve never underestimated the impact of a positive role model. We cannot discount the impact of seeing what is possible through them. More than seeing the “amazing social media lives” that our friends and celebrities live, role models help us to understand what is truly possible for ourselves. I’ve always appreciated events like Black History Month because for kids like me, it was one of those rare opportunities that afforded me the ability to see the wonderful things that the people of my race and culture have accomplished in school. The intentionality of my teachers and principals, even if I begrudged it at times, validated my culture’s impact. However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I truly realized the power of positive images and role models.

At the recommendation of Trustee Chiang, I started watching the TV show “For All Mankind.” (Of course I started this after the Bengals won the AFC championship - Who-DEY!). If you haven’t had a chance to see the show, here is what I have surmised thus far. Set in the 1960s “For All Mankind” is a fictitious account of an alternative future in which the Russians were the first to land on the moon. Although America finally lands on the moon, the space race is “one-upped” when the Russians orchestrate the first female cosmonaut to land on the moon. This one singular event supercharges America’s competitive nature resulting in the space race. In this alternative reality, America not only feels the push to get a woman in space, but it also must confront some of the stereotypes that American men held about gender in the 1960s. The real impactful moments are when the astronaut candidates start to receive letters from young girls talking about not only their interest in space, but also how they want to become engineers and work for NASA. The astronaut candidates start to see women marching on Washington, all of which was inspired by their hard work and the prospect of accomplishment.

So, I had an epiphany of sorts. I now understand more deeply what Carter G. Woodson wanted to accomplish when he first started Black History Week. Of the many things that he thought about, he realized that it was critical to celebrate people and their achievements in the context of culture. This is why celebratory months like Black History, Women's History, Hispanic Heritage and others matter so much to our students. These events help us to understand that we are more than what we see on TV and help us amplify diverse voices. It is humbling to know that I stand on the shoulders of other African Americans. Their work paved the way for me to see that I could be a doctor, like Dr. Charles Drew, who first discovered how to store blood, or other African American innovators who created the first traffic light signal, or the filament for a lightbulb, or even the super soaker toy.

Celebrating my heritage not only benefits my children, and others who look like me. It helps show other members of our community, and especially our children, the wonderful diversity that exists within different cultures and histories. It exposes others to all of the amazing contributions to this great experiment that is the United States. In essence, it demystifies, and encourages understanding. More importantly, it reinforces the idea that each of us can have pride in our race, culture and identities, without it coming at the expense of others. And this year that is more evident as ever, as our city, state and country has experienced increased hate speech/crimes.

It is important to continue to come together as a community and celebrate each other. We need to affirm our students, our families and communities with intentionality. Acknowledging other cultures is not a zero sum game; it is a critical part of the human experience. Celebrating our experience is what makes us stronger, which is why I am honored to share the start of Black History Month with my AAPI brethren. I’m excited to see your children learn about both cultures, and I am blessed to live in a community where both are welcomed.

Today is the official start of Black History Month. It is also the official start of the lunar new year (most Asian cultures celebrate their lunar new year around the same time but on different days). To my Asian American friends, I would like to say “Gong hei fat choy” and to my fellow African Americans, Happy Black History Month. All of our lives are richer because of the accomplishments of our ancestors. Our community is stronger because of our willingness to share our experience with our larger community.

Happy Black History Month. Happy Year of the Tiger. And of course Who-Dey!


Dr. Ayindé Rudolph

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