A Groundbreaking First Year for Friends Select's Families of Black Students Collective
Although Friends Select's Families of Black Students Collective (FBSC) is in its first official year, this Family Association affinity group is already having a tremendous impact on the school community. All Black students and their families have been invited to join the FBSC and share their experiences, as the FBSC provides a vital affinity space. The FBSC has also planned and hosted numerous educational and cultural programs that speak to its mission to celebrate the “culture, history, and present-day contributions of Black people throughout the world,” to which all Friends Select students and families have been invited.
The first year’s work of the FBSC is culminating in a collaboration with the Black Student Union and Toni Graves Williamson, the school’s director of equity and inclusion, to host an episode screening of The 1619 Project, followed by a Q&A with acclaimed docuseries showrunner and executive producer Shoshana Guy on May 24. Shoshana will be spending the entire day at Friends Select connecting with students from multiple divisions, faculty, and staff about her award-winning work in film and journalism, much of which has focused on race and justice. The screening of Episode 6, “Justice,” from The 1619 Project, followed by a Q&A co-moderated by Friends Select upper school students Atia Osborne ’24 and Nandi Bayard ’24, will be open to the public.
Jane Malloy P’23, a co-chair of the FBSC, recently reflected on the important role the FBSC plays at Friends Select. “There was something of a disconnect among Black families at school, which became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jane said. “The Families of Black Students Collective has already been successful in bringing Black families at school together, with different layers for the upper, middle, and lower school. We have been getting to know one another and establishing some continuity since this is a pre-K to 12th-grade school.”
Shayna Bayard P’24, ’28, another FBSC co-chair, echoed that sentiment. “What’s been great has been having some cohesiveness for families of Black students at Friends Select,” she said. “There are at times some issues and challenges we have that are different from the challenges for other groups at school. To have Black students and their families see each other’s faces and meet each other is important, and then we build some cultural programming around which we can connect.”
Last spring, the FBSC arranged an opportunity for middle and upper school students to see School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play, with their families at the Arden Theatre. At the start of the current school year, the FBSC held a get-together for Black students and their families along Kelly Drive. The FBSC also collaborated with members of the school’s Black Student Union to hold a networking event in which parents and guardians could meet with Black students and talk about their respective careers. Then in December, the FBSC held a Kwanzaa celebration and holiday crafts shop in the Parkway Building. Participating families were asked, in the spirit of Ujima (collective work and responsibility), to bring a holiday food dish of cultural significance, as well as a hygiene bag and items that could be donated to a local organization helping people experiencing homelessness. The celebration also featured a dance performance from Nia-Next, the youth dance company of the local performing arts organization DANSE4NIA. And in February, the FBSC curated a list of Black History Month events and activities in the Philadelphia area that Friends Select families and friends could attend, which was shared in the Bulletin. It included theatrical productions, museum exhibitions, book fairs, walking tours, and a Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tours, led by Harriett’s Bookshop.
The FBSC is already looking toward next year and building upon its early successes. The group intends to engage more deeply with Black students and their families from across all three across divisions at FSS, and has begun planning more events as well, including a Kwanzaa celebration. With Jane’s student graduating from Friends Select in June, the FBSC is holding nominations for a new co-chair. Still, that momentous occasion has created a chance for the FBSC to consider ways of engaging more Black alumni and their families, creating more networking opportunities, and extending the FBSC’s reach beyond Friends Select in ways that will be both supportive and sustainable.
If you would like to be more involved with the FBSC, email email@example.com, and we will put you in touch with the group's chairs.