Students Lead Moving Black History Month Chapel Service
Liz Torrey

On February 19, Onyx and Essence, St. Andrew's black male and black female student affinity groups, led a Wednesday evening Chapel service in celebration of Black History Month. You can watch the entire service, which incorporates student readings, choreography & dance, and vocal performances, on our YouTube channel.

Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach wrote the following reflection after the service:

Our students teach us something every day. But there are certain moments during the school year when students actually take over the culture of teaching and learning in astonishing ways. We all experienced one of those moments in chapel on Wednesday night when Onyx and Essence and guests from St. Anne’s taught us—through song, dance, stories, poetry, and readings—about suffering, courage, resilience, the power of the arts and storytelling, and the importance of remembering the truth of our past and present as we strive for a better, more equitable, and inclusive world today. 

In 1982, Stacey Duprey ’85’s singing during the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel service at St. Andrew’s (a voluntary service with about ten people in attendance) moved us to tears. Thirty-eight years later, our students of today moved us to tears again. Tied together, these moments show us the full potential of our students to teach and touch us as a community. At the same time, when we consider the evolution of the chapel service, we can also see the story of diversity at St. Andrew’s, a story that celebrates the experiences and perspectives, the voices and history, and the connections among our students of color, past and present. Where Stacey once stood alone, our students now fill the front of the chapel as they mark Black History Month. Where a handful of people sat in the pews in the early 80s, the full community (including visitors) now honors and celebrates together in a standing room only chapel.

The chapel service itself came to life through the vision and the work of [Associate Director of Admission] Bre [Pierce] and [Dean of Diversity Education] Devin [Duprey], and through all members of the community of St. Andrew’s that dared to dream this school might play a role in the work of justice in the 20th and 21st century. It came to life through the voices of Maya Angelou, Diane Nash, Bryan Stevenson, and Jesmyn Ward, all of whom spoke powerfully here. It emerged through the trustee work of Tom Hooper, Cynthia Martin, Jason Gardner, Staci Seeley, Heather Mitchell, and so many dedicated alumni who stand today as mentors and exemplars to all our students.

Thank you Essence and Onyx for being our teachers and for pushing us all to be more courageous, more thoughtful, and more creative in how we both acknowledge and celebrate our shared humanity.

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