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Black History Month Message from the Superintendent - Feb. 16, 2024

Dear D97 Community, 

Gwendolyn Brooks’ parents encouraged her passion for reading and writing at a young age. By 13, she had published her first poem. At the age of 17, she was publishing poems in the Chicago Defender.  

The legacy of Black excellence is an integral part of world history and Oak Park history too. Let’s take the opportunity February offers to learn about and to celebrate the contributions the Black community has made and continues to make to our world. 

Here are three things you can do make sure that you and your family to celebrate this shared Illinois heritage: ​​

  • VISIT! Go to the Illinois Humanities website and learn about the The Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards which honor the legacy of former Illinois poet laureate and the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks, and after whom one of our middle schools is named. The contest is open to all Illinois students in grades K-12. 
  • WATCH! While you are there, watch Chicago poet and educator Dr. Eve L. Ewing discuss Gwendolyn Brooks’ legacy of lifting up the voices of young people, and listen to previous youth contest winners recite their poems. Then, check out the resources for educators and young poets.  
  • SUBMIT! The submission window for the annual awards are open now, with submissions due by May 1, 2024. Encourage your student to submit a poem, elevate their voice and actively honor Gwendolyn Brooks’ legacy. Notably, five of the 2023 contest winners came from Oak Park! 

Here’s to celebrating our shared history, 

Dr. Shah