• March 15, 2023

    USCHS celebrates African American history

    USC Black Student UnionThe Upper St. Clair High School Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a month-long celebration that included a school-wide trivia contest, performances and a leadership workshop to commemorate and celebrate Black history throughout February.

    The BSU is sponsored by high school teachers Daniela Buccilli, English, and Cephus Moore, world language. The sponsors shared how endearing it was to see BSU student leaders grow in their sense of school spirit and belonging throughout the month-long celebration.

    “As the student body at-large grew in their knowledge and appreciation of their history of the United States, the month-long celebration found its greatest goals,” Ms. Buccilli said.

    Under the theme “Lift Every Voice: Celebrating African American Contributions,” a weekly trivia contest challenged students to identify several African American historical and contemporary figures. The contest, which yielded more than 1,000 responses, highlighted individuals that have made significant contributions in the areas of math, science, English, social studies and the arts.

    Building Student UnityThe BSUs from Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon high schools joined together to attend a sold-out matinee performance of “Step Afrika!” on Feb. 2, 2023, at the Byham Theater. The performers integrated songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation. The live performance was a blend of percussive dance styles as practiced by historically African American college fraternities and sororities; traditional West and Southern African dances; and an array of contemporary dance and art forms into a cohesive, compelling artistic experience.

    “The dancers invigorated and captivated the audience with their technique, agility and pure energy,” Mr. Moore said.

    Upper St.  Clair welcomed students from Chartiers Valley High School on Feb. 21 as students from the two schools participated in a joint in-school learning experience titled, “USC BSU: Building Student Unity.” Throughout the day, students participated in a variety of unity-building exercises.

    “This was a personal development and leadership workshop in which individuals reflected upon, journaled about, and discussed their personal life experiences,” Mr. Moore said. “In addition, students fostered student unity by defining core values for the group, creating a personal mission statement, and by making a personal commitment to themselves and their community.”

    Patrick Pinchinat, an USCHS senior, described the Building Student Unity field trip as an amazing experience.

    “I was able to meet so many new people from all over the world and hear about their upbringings, struggles, passions and desires. The group was diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and religion, which allowed for interesting discussions on how certain demographics intersect,” Patrick said. “Our space was open and honest, which allowed us to connect deeply with one another. The purpose of this field trip was to make us feel seen, heard, and celebrated, which I believe was accomplished.”

    The in-school workshop was chaperoned by teachers Giulia Gouker, Joanna Darakos, Ms. Buccilli and Mr. Moore, as well as school psychologist Shannon Dressler. Aaron Fitzpatrick, an elementary school teacher, accompanied the Chartiers Valley students.

    The teachers find that these opportunities to bring together students from different schools help to enhance and enrich the learning experience for all students.

    “The benefits and values embedded in meeting peers from other schools include the promotion of cultural exchange and a sense of belonging to the wider world of Pittsburgh,” Ms. Buccilli, said. “Additionally, it can create opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of ideas that enhance educational experiences for all involved.”

    The Upper St. Clair High School Performing Arts Department celebrated African American contributions to music. The Jazz Ensemble performed in the theater lobby alongside a table that featured information about African American contributions to music as well as information about different genres of music. In addition, the Pantheon Choir performed the hymn and poem titled, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” for the high school morning announcements.

    Black History Month Trivia

    • I am a mathematician who was educated in Detroit Public Schools. My research interests include noncommutative algebra, noncommutative algebraic geometry, symmetry in quantum mechanics, Hopf algebras, and quantum groups. In 2017, I was named a Sloan Fellow, becoming the fourth African-American to win this honor. In 2018, I won the André Lichnerowicz Prize in Poisson geometry, the first woman to be awarded this prize. I currently teach at Rice University.  Who am I? Chelsea Walton

    • Currently, I am a professor of mathematics and statistics who specializes in number theory and algebraic geometry. I have been working on properties of Selmer groups for elliptic curves using class groups of number fields. I taught at Purdue University for 14 years before moving on to Pomona College. I am the product of the Los Angeles Unified Public School System. And I attended the California Institute of Technology, where I majored in mathematics and physics, and earned a doctorate in mathematics from Stanford University. I spend most of my summers engaging underrepresented students in research in the mathematical sciences. Who am I? Edray Herber Goins

    • I invented something called the Illusion Transmitter, which is the technology that enabled various 3-D formats found in video games, movies, and 3-D television. I received a patent in 1980. In addition to this, I worked for NASA, developing real-time data systems and served on a team that developed the Landsat technology. This technology was instrumental in the first transmission of satellite images from outer space. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Physics from Morgan State University. Who am I? Valerie Thomas

    • I am a viral immunologist who works in vaccine development. I was born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina in 1986. I am best known for the role I played in the research that led to the development of an mRNA-based vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19. Currently, I am an assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health after spending six years as a research fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center.  Who am I? Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett

    • I was an American painter who died in June of 2000. My art was recognized for portraying African-American historical subjects and contemporary life. Although my style was described by others as “dynamic cubism,” I would have said that my influence was not so much French art, but rather the shapes and colors of Harlem. I was a professor at the University of Washington for over a decade. At the age of 23, I gained national recognition with my 60-panel called The Migration Series, which depicted the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. My works currently hang in numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Reynold House Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Northwest Art. And my 1947 painting The Builders currently hangs in the White House. Who am I? Jacob Armstead Lawrence

    • I am an American painter who works mainly as a portraitist depicting African Americans in everyday settings. Since 2012, I have been using grisaille to portray skin tones in order to challenge conventions about skin color and race. In 2016, I became the first woman as well as the first African American ever to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition with my painting, Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance). In 2017, I was selected by former First Lady Michelle Obama to paint her official portrait, becoming one of the first African Americans ever to receive presidential portrait commissions from the National Portrait Gallery. In 2020, my piece The Bathers (2015) was sold at auction for $4,265,000. In 2021, Welfare Queen (2012) sold for $3.9 million in Phillips New York auction. Who am I? Amy Sherald

    • I am the author of eight novels and two works of nonfiction, including “The Underground Railroad,” which received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal, the Heartland Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hurston-Wright Award, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The novel is being adapted by Barry Jenkins into a TV series for Amazon. My other novel is “The Nickel Boys,” which received the Pulitzer Prize, The Kirkus Prize, and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. I am the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. I live in New York City.  Who am I? Colson Whitehead

    • I am the author of 11 poetry books, a novel, a play, a short story collection, and many essays. I won the Pulitzer Prize for my poetry in the late 80s. I served as the U.S. Poet Laureate and the Poet Laureate of Virginia, I have been awarded the National Humanities Medal, the National Medal of Arts, the Wallace Stevens Award, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal. Last year I was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. You can find videos of me reading my work on YouTube, or read my latest book of poems that came out in 2021 called “Playlist for the Apocalypse.” I teach at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where I live, though I grew up not far from here, in Akron, Ohio. Who am I? Rita Dove

    • I was a church leader who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King during the historic Selma March. My participation in that march put the Greek Orthodox faith at the forefront of the struggle for human rights. Having experienced religious oppression, myself as a child, I became a zealous supporter of human and civil rights. I backed Dr. King’s cause with action, which was a rarity among high clergy from any denomination. I was an archbishop in the Greek Orthodox Church. Who am I? Demetrios Koukouzis (Archbishop of North and South America Iakovos)