February marked the celebration of Black History Month, a time dedicated to honouring the rich contributions of Black individuals throughout history. This year, at the International School of Lausanne, we embraced the theme of Black History and the Arts. Across our secondary school, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) coordinators have collaborated with various departments to ensure that Black history and culture are woven into the fabric of our educational curriculum and extracurricular activities.

Exploring Black History and Social Justice Through Literature, Art, and Humanities

English: Celebrating Black Writers

DEI Champions in English have created a series of lessons for Year 10 and Year 11 students, dedicated to celebrating the works of Black writers throughout this month. For instance, Year 10 students explored ways in which various Black writers have used their craft as a means of expressing their emotions. In their learning, students closely examined the allusions present in Gil Scott-Heron’s iconic piece, “The Revolution will not be Televised.” In this interactive experience, students collaborated in groups to rewrite this renowned work for 2024, incorporating themes from contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Students working in groups during a session dedicated to the Black History Month at ISL
Students working in groups during a session dedicated to the Black History Month at ISL

Visual Arts: Exploring Representation and Heritage

In Visual Arts, Year 7 students discovered the significance of representation and heritage in art. They delved into the works of black artist Charles McGee, known for fostering a sense of togetherness in Detroit during the 1960s. Through their exploration, students observed how harmony, movement, and assemblage techniques can be employed in relief drawings as a precursor to 3D artworks. Additionally, students examined the profound impact of Veronica Ryan, whose monumental sculptures stand as a testament to the rich contributions of the Windrush Generation and their descendants to British society. This led to meaningful conversations about the symbolism of objects and the impact of placement on artistic meaning.

Students’ artworks inspired by the works of Black artists Charles McGee and Veronica Ryan.

Humanities: Examining Social Justice Through a DEI Lens

In Humanities, Year 10 students engaged in a DEI-focused examination of the societal impacts of natural hazards. They analysed the systemic flaws in urban planning that exacerbated the effects of events like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 on New Orleans’ Black Community of New Orleans due to systemic flaws in urban planning and inadequate response measures. Through spatial analysis of maps and firsthand accounts from New Orleans residents, students gained insight into the complex intersection of race and disaster response.  Meanwhile, Year 11 students are immersed in an interdisciplinary unit titled ‘Our Responsibility to Remember’. As part of this unit, students explored how societal hatred can lead to tragic events such as genocide, with a poignant case study persecution of Black people in Nazi Germany. Guided by the Pyramid of Hate framework, students collaborated in groups to dissect the layers of marginalisation and oppression faced by Black communities living in Germany during this dark chapter of history.

students engaging with the Pyramid of Hate framework during a classroom activity.
Students engaging with the Pyramid of Hate framework during a classroom activity.

Together, let’s build a more inclusive world—one lesson, one piece of artwork, and one conversation at a time.

© Photo credit: Mélody Spoerri