Communal history project sheds light on Black History Month through numbers

100 MILES. A poster describing how Ted Corbitt set the American record for 100 miles in 1969 is an example of how the project tells stories through numbers.
100 MILES. A poster describing how Ted Corbitt set the American record for 100 miles in 1969 is an example of how the project tells stories through numbers.
Thomas Kovarik

BLACK HISTORY COUNTS: Telling Stories Through Numbers is a new project hosted in the math wing during February and serves as a way for students and faculty to help tell the story of Black history and cultural achievements. The communal project is simple: students use a shared Google spreadsheet to submit a statistic, fact, or figure pertinent to Black history. Then, posters are added to a number line in Schilling. The timeline provides a welcome addition to the math wing’s starkly blank walls — and, most importantly, a way for students and adults alike to educate themselves on important but often overlooked accomplishments by Black and African-American individuals.

The idea sprung from a collaboration between math teacher Ethan Somes and freshman Luka Cook, who named the project. “I was just thinking about the entirety of Lower Schilling, and how it all kind of revolves around math. And so Black History Counts just seemed a little bit obvious.”

Cook wanted to bring the discussion of Black history to the STEM field, and with Somes organizing the project, it felt like an ideal opportunity. “In STEM subjects…we don’t talk about Black people or systemic racism ever, [but] there’s a reason why there are almost no Black people in the Science Olympiad. It comes out of systemic oppression and fear, because…I know that I don’t want to be the only Black kid in a room,” Cook said.

Somes hoped to help highlight important events and accomplishments and bring Cook’s vision to life. “The Black Student Union wanted there to be something for Black History Month but didn’t want to have to do the work of putting it on. So I just sort of took it on because I…didn’t want to have the extra burden on them to do it,” he said.

Why a number line? Drawing from Somes’s work as a math teacher, it felt like the right way to focus the stories that were being told through numbers. “When we’re reading through stories in history, it’s easy to get lost in the details and pulling out these statistics was the way to focus these stories.”

Somes spends his time proofreading entries, checking sources, putting data into templates he designed, and hanging them on the wall.

The project shines a light on something that history textbooks leave out: Black history is ongoing, and that the community is not a monolith. “The goal for me is that we as a school can show up for our black students more and show them that it is not their job to educate us [the rest of the school]…and to celebrate the amazing things that are part of history and also acknowledge the things that are less amazing but still need to be acknowledged…Hopefully, [it] gives us a concrete way to show up as a school for our peers,” Somes said.

The number line is still a work in progress. When Somes last updated the wall, there were 112 posters, and he estimates that number will rise to 300 near the end of the month once he’s updated it.

Cook, though happy about participation so far, wants to see more students engage with the project to help reach the ultimate goal of 500 — or even go beyond. “A lot of people have submitted stuff—awesome! But a lot of people still haven’t submitted stuff or just don’t really know people to submit. It [only takes] 10 minutes of like Googling.”

Though the project is a great first step, that’s not where Cook wants Black History celebration at SPA to end. “The thing I think of when I see these projects is that I don’t think enough is done throughout the year to highlight black culture or culture of anyone who’s not like a white student. And I would love to see something like this, like throughout the year.”

Cook’s number one hope for students at SPA? Keep having conversations about Black history and race throughout the year, especially after the month is over and the project is gone. “White students, don’t you leave your Black classmates to be the only person [sic] talking about racism, because the spirit of Black History Counts is highlighting Black voices…make space for us to talk about issues that pertain to us. But if racism is mentioned in something, then don’t immediately look to the only black person. Make space for Black people to talk about [racism], but…participate as well.”

Both Cook and Somes hope to see the project return again next year.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comments are welcomed on most stories at The Rubicon online. The Rubicon hopes this promotes thoughtful and meaningful discussion. We do not permit or publish libel or defamatory statements; comments that advertise or try to sell to the community; any copyrighted, trademarked or intellectual property of others; the use of profanity. Comments will be moderated, but not edited, and will post after they are approved by the Director of RubicOnline.  It is at the discretion of the staff to close the comments option on stories.
All The Rubicon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.