Black History, Black Culture

Aminata Gueye, founder and president of Inwood Academy’s Black Student Union, shares her thoughts on our country’s black history and black culture. Aminata is senior at Inwood Academy and has been president of our Black Student Union since 2016. Currently, there are 13 members in the group.

Interview by Cindy Burgos

Can you tell me about the history of Black History Month?
While February celebrates Black History Month, black history is more than just a month and is simply not enough time to reflect on or to highlight all the contributions black people have made in our country. However, Black History Month is important nonetheless. It grew out of a weekly celebration in February that was established by Carter Woodson in 1929 and the impact was immediate. Black history clubs sprang up and teachers began to demand materials to instruct their students. Woodson chose the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the year of our bicentennial and every president since has dedicated a theme to celebrate black history in February.

What does the celebration of Black History Month mean to you?
It’s a set time to highlight the successes of our people, acknowledge our struggles and really show our admiration for what black people have been through and achieved as leaders, and the way they’ve prospered. In a way, it’s making sure that Americans don’t  go off and say “we’re in a post-racial world” or “racism doesn’t exist anymore.”

Name someone you admire that exemplified(s) leadership in black history.
Angela Davis is someone I have always admired. Angela, she is the textbook definition of strength. It’s that attitude she has towards tackling social injustice issues that I wish to exude.

Lupita Nyong’o, I will never stop saying how much she inspires me. I deeply feel that Lupita is driving forth conversations on colorism. She is a model for anyone when it comes to self-love, not just dark skin girls or African girls, but really anybody; everyone is supposed to be represented and feel free to love themselves.

Considering the social and cultural issues we struggle with, what ways can we display leadership?
There’s a quote that I love by Huey Newton that says “The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution.” I really believe this. When it comes to leadership you’re supposed to focus on acknowledging the ways you can guide and teach others. From generation to generation things will get better,  but only if we pass down information and wisdom. We now know more about ourselves and our history because of those before us. We must continue to pass on knowledge and guide younger people so they can make better and more informed decisions.

Aminata will be leading a workshop for her peers in partnership with teacher Takiyah Ariyibi about black culture. This workshop will be part of the Inwood Academy High School’s Student Advocacy Day on March 14th.

After-school at Inwood Academy

This article was originally written by and published on DOE Charter Schools Weekly.

Inwood Academy for Leadership Charter School is a middle school and high school located in Inwood, Manhattan. Since opening, Inwood Academy for Leadership has continued to offer students a wide range of after-school programming. Inwood Academy for Leadership views after-school enrichment as an opportunity for experiential learning, character building and overall academic improvement. More than 250 students are currently registered for after school programming, and over the years, Inwood Academy has offered an impressive list of classes including Photography, Drum Corps, Choir, Theater, Wrestling, Girls Who Code and Debate. Thanks to community partners such as Play Study Win, Inwood Academy for Leadership can offer a breadth of recreational activities.


On December 2nd, Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school debate team hosted the New York City Urban Debate League. The New York City Urban Debate League is the largest debate league in the nation, comprised of students from all five boroughs. Over 250 debaters were present for the competition. Leading up the to event, Inwood Academy for Leadership students prepared for the debate by meeting twice a week during after school programming. Students prepared arguments for both positions of a given debate question. For example, students came prepared to debate, “Should juveniles be charged as adults in the criminal justice system?”

Middle School Director of Afterschool, Denise Hykes, proudly watched the Inwood Academy for Leadership after-school debate team battle it out with evidence. When asked about her favorite part of coordinating Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school programming, Hykes shared, “I love it when the kids are empowered to organize and lead, whether it’s MCing an awards ceremony, taking leftover snacks to the nearby NYC Love Kitchen or watching the older students teach the younger students.”