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Blog: Melanin Mondays at Mastery Prep Elementary

Raymond Fields
Principal, Mastery Prep Elementary

Melanin Monday is a weekly school-wide event where we recognize and build positive racial identity, particularly for our Black and Latinx students. At Mastery Prep Elementary, we believe that school should be filled with transformational educational experiences that build our students’ knowledge, pride, and resilience. On Melanin Mondays, our whole school participates in:

  • Classroom read alouds of the same text. This school year, we’re starting with “I am Enough” by Grace Bryers and “Brown Sugar Babe” by Charlotte Watson Sherman. We need our students to know that they’re represented in literature.
  • Facilitated lessons and discussions on social justice issues. The read alouds always align with a teacher-facilitated conversation. Some of our recent topics have been “What is Colorism?” and “What does it mean to boycott or protest?”
  • Our uniform policy is lifted for the day so that students can wear things that speak to their identity. We want their chosen dress for the day to serve as Mirrors and Windows on themselves. Some students even dress up as Latinx or Black historical figures!

This year, we’ve adapted Melanin Monday to be held virtually – nothing, not even a global pandemic, was going to get in the way of this tradition at our school. Melanin Monday is a staple in the Gratz K-12 educational experience block. The same event also happens each week at our family schools, Prep Middle and Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter. In fact, it was originated at Simon Gratz High School many years ago (BIG shout-out to Ms. Chade Biney-Amissah and Maryam Abdelhamid!) and I have been thrilled to help adapt the concept for our K-4 students.  I love this continuum and tradition for our students.

The bottom line is: at Mastery, we’re known for academic excellence and I’m proud of that. Most importantly, though, I want our students to feel our love. I want them to know that they’re beautiful and deserving. Our society, with its vestiges of white supremacy and systemic racism, doesn’t always set Black and brown students up for success – I see it as my job, in an age-appropriate manner, to continue this conversation. We partner with families, including our extremely supportive and active PTA, to support social justice education both at home and at school. Our PTA generously facilitated giving each student 3 books that build positive racial identity during student orientation this year. In June, we held a virtual town hall conversation that was attended by hundreds of families. I take pride in the proactive and purposeful engagement we share with our community.

I want our students to be able to navigate and name racism and live in an informed manner. I don’t want to create a sense of fear in our students, but rather strengthen them with information. These are the values and goals engrained in our Melanin Mondays and, actually, a staple of everything we do on a daily basis in our work with students at Prep El.