Black Corner: A Timeline

For years, The Black Corner in the northeast Corner of the Lower Crossroads has been an affinity space for Black juniors and seniors. Whether catching up on schoolwork or just bonding with one another, it was an amazing space to connect with other people like me as a black underclassman. However, without the community-wide recognition that the space deserves, the tradition will be lost to time.

Week of September 12 :
Kennedy Ferguson created, illustrated and posted a sign that was, in her eyes, necessary to make sure that non-Black underclassmen understood and respected The Black Corner as a safe space. With her sign, she included a quotation from psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, who has published research on how racial identity and racism affect teenagers’ development. The quote reads, “Students of color tend to group together under conditions of racial isolation as a means toward decreasing racial stigma and vulnerability to stereotypes. As Tatum had explained, same-race grouping of black students in a predominantly white context enables students to gain validation, resist stereotypes, and develop culturally affirming identities.”

After the quotation, she included a handwritten note, “Black seniors and juniors usually sit here… respect our spaces.”

Tuesday September 21, 2021 :
In a senior class meeting, the administration complimented the sign. However, in a private meeting with BSU leaders later that day, the sign was identified as potentially problematic. administration shared their concerns about prospective students and parents potentially not understanding the sign.

Thursday, September 23, 2021 :
While freshman, sophomores, and seniors were off-campus during their grade level trips, a member of the administration removed The Black Corner Sign. Yabby Maelaf, a junior studying in The Black Corner, questioned the signs removal. The administrator responded saying that “we need to contextualize [the sign].”

Friday September 25, 2021 :
The @blackatpotomac Instagram page, which anonymously shares Black students’ experiences at Potomac, posted about the removal of the Black Corner Sign. For many, this was the first time they heard discourse surrounding the Black Corner Sign.

One student wrote on Instagram: “It’s ironic taking the ‘Black Corner’ sign down during class trip week, you’d think Potomac would respect our traditions too. Historically this is where the Black snrs/jrs I looked up to typically sat. I’ve realized promises of inclusion during vague assemblies or titles like director of diversity, are sometimes just words. Taking that sign down says a lot about Potomac’s priorities: potential new white students over current Black students, image over our spaces. ‘Lack of context’ or the smaller sign being hard to read from afar are excuses.”

Another said, “Good intention and hopes for change are meaningless w/o concrete actions. Quietly supporting the sign or meeting to kindly break the news that you’re taking down the sign hurts more… We deserve better.”

November 4, 2021 :
The Black Corner was addressed in a meeting with the entire Upper School. The Administration said that the sign was “noble in spirit, [and] meant to affirm a space of belonging,” but was ultimately too divisive for a K-12 space. They went on, stating that the sign is contrary to Potomac’s idea of inclusivity and “may not be fully understood by all members of our community.”

Currently, there are no plans for a more contextualized sign or plaque in the crossroads. However, the recently opened CCERJ space has been designated as a place to host affinity group meetings.