The fifth annual Celebration of Black Lawrentians, co-sponsored by the Lawrenceville Black Alumni Association (LBAA) and the student-run Alliance of Black Cultures (ABC), offered an inspiring view into the talents and aspirations of the School’s Black students and an insightful window into the Lawrenceville Black experience. Well-attended by Black students, parents, alumni, and the growing number of Black faculty, the event provided an ideal venue for students to deepen their connections within Lawrenceville’s community of color.
The event, held on February 25 to coincide with Black History Month, included the presentation of the Trailblazer Award to an alumnus with a demonstrated history of commitment to the School, the community, and his or her profession. This year’s recipient was Xiomara Hall ’92.
The program, emceed by LBAA President Khalifa Waugh ’04 and ABC Co-Presidents Kwabena Acheampong ’18 and Kyra Henry ’18, and held in Dresdner Recital Hall in the Clark Music Center, incorporated a selection of spoken word pieces and song. Londyn Harris ’21 opened the program by leading guests in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” James Weldon Johnson’s poem set to music, which is widely accepted as the Black National Anthem.
Invited by LBAA and ABC to address the guests, Head Master Steve Murray H’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21 spoke frankly about the issue of race in America, saying, “’Black Lives Matter’ shouldn’t be a controversial statement … The notion that it is provides evidence of how much more we need to do as a country.” He shared his disappointment in the slow pace of progress in our national thinking but closed his comments on an optimistic note: He expressed confidence in the “200 idealistic graduates Lawrenceville sends out each year,” who make him “feel better about the world.”
Recitations by Mykael Canady ’20 (“White Privilege,” Kyla Lacey), Charlese Reynolds ’18 and Sarah Long ’18 (“Dear Black People in Horror Movies,” Omar Homan and Anthony Ragler; “Angry Black Woman,” Portia O.), Taylor Thompson ’18 (“Untitled,” Taylor Thompson), and Ije Achebe ’21 (“Open Up,” Ije Achebe), and a voice and piano performance by Khatumu Tuchscherer ’19 (“Oceans,” Hillsong United), touched on issues of identity, alienation, fear, loss, anger, frustration and hope. These, together with remarks by ABC leadership, highlighted the concerns of Lawrenceville’s Black students, primarily in society at large but also on campus, and the sense of belonging ABC provides.
Between performances, members of the ABC Senior and Junior Councils – Charlese Reynolds ’18, Sterling Stiger ’18, Kayla Miller ’19 and Kaleb Mucius ’19 – described ABC’s role in their lives and in life at Lawrenceville. Charlese reiterated an earlier list of the activities sponsored by ABC during the year, singling out the mentoring program for students at the Christina Seix Academy in Trenton and its meaning to both the Seix students and the Lawrentian mentors.
Turquoise Brewington ’18 introduced Xiomara Hall, currently the Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions at New York City’s Chapin School and a trainer at Border Crossers, where she teaches educators how to combat racial stereotypes in the classroom. Xiomara, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a master’s in education from Columbia University, is continuing a distinguished career in private education.
She spoke eloquently of her “Lawrenceville career,” citing the absence of female Black role models during her high school years and the paucity of male Black role models as inspiration for her to become “as visible as possible.” Consequently, she was a tour guide, Chapel usher, House president, member of Periwig, Olla Pod editor, Mock Trial participant, and more. She originated – and performed for the audience – the Stanley House cheer.
“I couldn’t imagine the existence of this award when I was a student at Lawrenceville,” she said. “Now we have multiple generations of black and brown faces.
Xiomara has remained active as an alumna, serving as Class Agent, on Reunion Committees, as a member of LBAA and The Crescent, and as a participant in the Coeducation Initiative. “My Lawrenceville experience was acutely influential in my professional journey,” she noted.
In closing, Kwabena thanked the faculty for their support of ABC and reminded attendees that another joint ABC-LBAA event will be held during Alumni Weekend, May 4-6. Click here for details and to register.