How Kingsway Celebrated Black History Month


How did Black History Month receive national recognition and society’s approval? And how does Kingsway acknowledge Black History Month? Black History Month originally started as National Negro history week by historian Carter Woodson and minister Jesse Moorland in 1926. They chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. Many local leaders would have national negro history weeks until the 70s when President Gerald Ford in 1976 proclaimed the first black history month for February, a proclamation that has continued under each President of the United States of America since. Kingsway Regional High School has a lot of its own first in black history.

Melvin Allen is a Black Principal in the Twenty-First Century and the first in Kingsway’s history. Four years ago, Principal Allen submitted a job application for employment at Kingsway, upon a career at the nearby Deptford high school. The class of 2022 will be the first to have Allen for all four of their high school years. Principal Allen believes Black History Month is important as it, “Contributes to African American culture, supporters, showcases the gains African Americans have had over the years in America in every aspect and highlights where we were and where we come from slavery to the president of the united states”. 

On part of slavery, Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church— a recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places, the first black-led denomination in the United States that serves as a chapel and a meeting house for the freedmen’s community of Small Gloucester is directly across the street from Kingsway on Garwin Road. Mount Zion AME was an important station on the Underground Railroad, pieces that are still intact and accessible to the public for view.  Mount Zion pastors would protect fugitives as they neared liberation and preach similar messages of Langston Hughes, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

A dream of most past activists was education equity for all children. Presently, Allen advocates for new/progressive organizations such as the SHADES Club, a safe space to support students of color, discuss the Black student experience at Kingsway, and topics educators fail to teach in the classroom, like the significance of Black History (and other groups). Individuals from all backgrounds are invited to educate themselves on Black students’ relative emotions and ways to be an ally to their Black peers, as they openly share experiences. Field trips, pot lucks with soul food, and guest speakers are all future aspirations for SHADES. 

Kristian Ward, a World History and AP Government educator, along with Evette Fearon, a KRHS District substitute, was asked by SHADES founders Kennedi Avent, Laylaa Brown, and Sumayyah Turner to co-advise. With much deliberation and negotiation upon application approval, the administration became very supportive of SHADES, as it is now sixty students and counting. Adviser Ward said, “Unfortunately it still is still needed in our society, but the original intent of black history week was to merge African and American history”. Hence, the message of the KDTV’s dose of daily Black History Month segment brought to Kingsway from SHADES Club signature sign-off, “Remember, Black History is American history”.

In agreement with several Black student interviewees at Kingsway, most being SHADES Club members, Allen’s favorite part of Black culture is the “Food. My parents and grandparents are cooks, and they made great home-cooked meals, especially good Sunday dinner meals”. These prominent individuals in Allen’s life likely told him that he would face challenges in life, such as anyone. As a Black Principal, his greatest challenge has been his efforts to “reach out and impact every student in a way”. He truthfully shares, “It’s easy to say someone famous but I can always say my mother, Sheila Allen, is my Black idol because she finished first in her high school, and college class”. Some other inspiring black staff are Melvin Carter and Robert Page, who build upon the past of first Black Kingsway educators Norman Wilson and William Gibbs, 2021-2022 for Black Homecoming Queen Taylor Gary, and future generations of black excellence. Kingsway truly has come so far in regards to adequate and positive Black representation. 

Allen reminded the Dragon community, “Black history should be celebrated all year, it’s important to highlight but we should celebrate all cultures. Different cultures are what makes America go round. I think black is something that should be celebrated all year round along with all other cultures”. Devoting a month to the legacy of Black Americans is to educate those ignorant to Black American culture, commemorate Black American trailblazers, and celebrate [or lead by example] for younger generations to ensure a sense of belonging and admiration for those who paved the way to allow them to be the generation of change. 

Each Black History Month has a theme. In celebration of Black History Month, this year is a Black Health and Wellness, considering activities, as well as, initiatives Black individuals have done to be well. This theme will cause Black individuals to reflect on the past to provide light for the future. Allen will shine his light while he leads by example for Dragons as he said, “Whether I’m black white or anything, my experience has been tremendous at Kingsway. We´re all red and black. That hasn’t dictated my behavior”. 

What is the future of Black individuals at Kingsway? How many Black scholars, athletes, and educators will influence the history of Kingsway? 

For more articles in the Flame about Black History, click the following links.

Celebrating Black Alumni/School Staff

Shades Club Offers Support to Kingsway Students

Q and A with Kingsway Students on Black History Month