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Lower Schoolers Engage in an Oral History Service Learning Workshop at the Black History Month Celebration

photo credit: Natania Kremer

As part of the PAT Black History Month Celebration this year, the BFS Service Learning Office partnered with the Brooklyn Historical Society to offer an oral history service learning workshop for Lower School Students.

Emily Potter-Ndiaye from Brooklyn Historical Society shares an oral history
and photograph of Mary deSaussure Sobers.

Oral history is a unique source of gathering historical information and a wonderful entry-point for service learning, an experiential approach to teaching and learning that integrates meaningful service with
instruction and reflection. As shared by Brooklyn Historical Society’s Director of Education, Emily Potter-Ndiaye, in order to have personal, unique primary
sources about the past, we have to interview people today and record and preserve those interviews for people in the future to learn from.

Students interview BFS parent, Kwasi Konadu.

Historians are people who interview narrators as part of projects to learn more – about a particular time, theme, or event. At the oral history service learning workshop, our Lower School students (with several committed Upper School volunteers) became oral historians and worked together on an oral history project about this year’s Black
History Month Celebration theme: Brooklyn’s African Diaspora.

Students Interview BFS Parent, Cortez Stallings Jr.

Students were first introduced to the concept of oral history by Emily Potter-Ndiaye. The group listened to an audio recording of an oral history from Mary deSaussure Sobers, who made history by becoming the first black female to run in a sanctioned New York City track meet. They learned from BFS parent Kwasi Konadu about the context of African Diaspora. Students then worked as teams to conduct interviews with our three guest narrators, Kwasi Konadu, Cortez Stallings Jr., and Dawn Gill Thomas.

Students interview Dawn Gill Thomas.

For our archives, students asked each guest to share their full name, age, birthday, place of birth, and then respond to a range of questions,

-Tell me about your name – how did you come to have that name?
-Tell me about something that is important to you.
-Tell me about the street you grew up on.
-Tell me about your family when you were born.
-How has life in Brooklyn (or elsewhere) changed since you were a child?
-What does it mean to be a Brooklynite?
-Why do we celebrate Black History Month?
Each of our guests also responded to the question What does African Diaspora mean to you? They shared the following:

Kwasi Konadu: “African Diaspora means wherever there are African peoples
in this world and evidence of their culture in those parts of the world.”

Cortez Stallings Jr.: “The
African Diaspora is like a beautiful rainbow to me because they say
that all people came from Africa, no matter what culture, no matter what
color, no matter what language you speak. They all started in one place.
All human beings began in Africa. So the African Diaspora is especially
special to me because everyone came, in some way, from Africa.”

Dawn Gill Thomas: “African Diaspora means to me that there is a coming
together from all segments of African life people of African descent who
settle in a particular area and we get to have the wonderful
ingredients of all of these people…a mingling and coming together of
all of the elements of African people.”

Click on the links below to hear the full recordings of these interviews, which are also archived in the BFS Library and are available for members of the community! (You may need to wait a moment for the audio files to play.)

Dawn Gill Thomas Interview – February 6, 2015

Many thanks to our narrators Kwasi Konadu, Cortez Stallings Jr., and Dawn Gill Thomas, to Emily Potter-Ndiaye from Brooklyn Historical Society, to our parent and faculty volunteers, to our Upper School student volunteers Jacob SS, Alexia S, Naomi M, and Caila F, and to our Lower School Oral Historians for making this event meaningful and memorable!