Lower School

Powerful Overlap of Lunar New Year and Black History Month

Over the course of the past weeks, I’ve been greeted by beautiful decorative wall hangings and 春联 (Spring Festival couplets) with proclamations of good fortune and hopes fulfilled springing up around the Oak Campus. In a culture where asking someone “Have you eaten yet?” is akin to saying, “I care deeply about you,” I smiled when our annual employee Hot Pot party invitations went out, reminding us of the opportunity for faculty and staff across campuses, languages, cultures, and disciplines to come together to share a delicious meal, lovingly organized by our Chinese Department. And of course, the building has been abuzz with Mass Greeting rehearsals, where dances, songs, chants, and, usually, giggles can be heard on every floor! Lunar New Year, a deeply important cultural celebration in China and many other Asian countries around the world, is coming soon, and it falls during the month of February this year. At CAIS, we celebrate Lunar New Year with an extended week of special cultural activities, capping it off with our family-style Lunar New Year Luncheon and of course, our marquee community event, Mass Greeting.

Also in February is another deeply important cultural celebration, Black History Month, which has its origins in 1926’s “Negro History Week” and which has, since 1976, been a federally recognized month of honor in the USA, offering us a platform upon which to recognize Black contributions, pay tribute to Black history, and, this year, to appreciate and herald “African Americans and the Arts.” The fact that both occur this month provides us a doubly special opportunity and responsibility to lead our children in celebrating, with an inclusive spirit, the diversity that makes our school, and our world, the incredible places that they are.

Recently, a community connection led to a special guest Mystery Reader (a fun and beloved read aloud tradition at CAIS) in one of the 2nd grade Chinese classrooms. Ms. Njeri Kamau-Devers, an Oakland-based small business owner who runs what she proudly describes as an “Afro-centric Chinese learning center” came to read to the students in 2 Gold, and it struck me as such a lovely embodiment of the many beautiful and overlapping themes that make up the month of February for our students — Black History Month, Lunar New Year, and the CAIS Core Values of Inclusion and Curiosity, about our world and the world of those in our extended community. I imagine our new 19th Avenue campus as a community hub, one day welcoming not only our own CAIS learners, but other community members who are interested in Mandarin and inspired to Embrace Chinese. How fortunate we are to be able to share our love and respect for Chinese with one another!