Black History Month summit to reflect on school integration legacy in Virginia Beach

Black History Month

VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — In honor of Black History Month, there is an online event this Saturday, February 6, created by students and staff of Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

WAVY spoke with Dr. Sebrina Lindsay-Law, of the school district’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion about what you can expect at the event, as well as the deep-rooted history that is the launching point for the program.

“There was a time when Blacks were not allowed to go to public school and so within that, they created their own local school. It was called Princess Anne County Training School at the time, also known as Union Kempsville High School, and so there we have many Black families that came together and educated their students. It started out in churches and then they eventually used the school that is called Princess Anne County Training School,” Dr. Lindsay-Law said.

Some of Dr. Lindsay-Law’s own family members graduated from Princess Anne County Training School in Virginia Beach, as well as current educators of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system. Using that as their launching point, those in the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion started brainstorming ways to bring generations together.

“So to bring our current students together, even bring some of our current educators together, and also bring together the history of Princess Anne County Training School, and not only just the history of the educational process, but the lived experiences of those students who attended that school and so as we were talking, they were like, ‘Well, we’ve never had the story told of the students that could integrate Virginia Beach City Public Schools.’ And they were like, ‘We need to tell their stories.'”

“So we have 38 students that were eligible to integrate Virginia Beach City Public Schools. One of them didn’t go, but we still want to know their story, and so, they were like, ‘How cool would it be for our students to be a part of that?'” Dr. Lindsay-Law said.

This Saturday those stories will be told during the school district’s Black History Initiative’s Virtual Summit.

“We’re excited! So, we got students together, we got parents together, we got community members together. We have speakers and we’re all discussing things that relate to this idea of reflection on a legacy. Looking at perseverance, looking at pride, looking at persistence, and that’s one thing that is undeniable about the Black and brown community is that we will try our best to never give up, always persevere. We may have some obstacles, it may look like we may be defeated or we might be, you know, down for a second, but we always find a way to spark and we always find a way to come back, and you see that. It’s evident through this Princess Anne Training School history.”

There is truly something for everyone during the summit.

“In the morning we will do opening remarks by Dr. Spence as well as others. We will have the National Anthem as well as the Black National Anthem sung. We will also have a keynote by Councilman Aaron Rouse, which we look forward to. He is product of Virginia Beach City Public Schools and has went on to do great things and not only has done great things, but has now come back to the community to invest in our community,” Dr. Lindsay-Law said.

“Then from there we’re going to have a panel discussion where we’re going to have a lot of notable people, but more importantly we’re going to have two of our students represented and they’re going to talk about the theme of unity, leadership, and advocacy and the importance of that at their age. These are things that the students came up with. This is what’s so amazing. After the panel discussion, which they have their own special format, they have specialized questions. We’re going to have Councilman Aaron Rouse be the moderator. Then after that students, as well as adults, will go into different, themed, roundtable discussions. They’re going to talk about all types of things from mental health and wellness to how can I be comfortable and be my authentic self to how do I navigate through the workplace when there’s very limited people who look like me. They’re going to talk about the celebration of cultural and STEM. They’re going to talk about health concerns and how that effects Black and brown communities. They’re going to talk about different inclusive natures, and so those are just some of the themes. This opportunity allows us to look at the lived, local experiences that not only the history shows, but also the present. And how can we use past and present to inform our future?” Dr. Lindsay-Law said.

The summit is truly an opportunity to use the past to continue shaping a promising and more inclusive and equitable future.

“All of us have gifts and talents and once we start to recognize that and start to really play with them and interact with them, we’ll see that greatness, and I’m glad I was able to use that word ‘play’ because that’s what it is. This is fun.”

The Black History Initiative’s Virtual Summit, Reflection on a Legacy: Building for the Present through Persistence, Perseverance and Pride is this Saturday, February 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. To participate you have to be in 6th grade or older and live in Virginia Beach or have an affiliation with the school system.

You do have to register ahead of time. To register, click here.

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