Ransom Everglades kicked off Black History Month with a lively festival during the mid-day break after an inspiring morning talk from the Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson, the senior chaplain for the Miami-Dade Police Department and an adjunct professor of religion at St. Thomas University. Upper school students and faculty in the Lewis Family Auditorium gave Richardson a standing ovation, then enjoyed food, music and art rooted in African and Caribbean traditions.
The celebration on Feb. 1 was the first of a series of events to recognize Black History Month on both campuses. Members of the Black Student Association also highlighted Black fashion through the decades with a fun and educational fashion show at the upper school on Feb. 15 that was emceed by BSA President Tyira Jackson '25.
"Black History Month can be celebrated in a number of ways," Black Student Association vice president Mia Campbell '25 told her upper school peers. "One of the most important is taking time to educate yourselves on Black history. Today BSA will be helping you do that with a speaker who embodies our theme: 'Shades of Blackness '... Blackness is a mixture of different cultures, traditions, music, dance and people ... Fortunately for us, RE has given us a platform to show the intricacies and beauty of our culture."
Richardson, a fifth-generation preacher who also is a published author and member of Jackson Health System's Public Health Trust Board of Trustees, shared some of his personal story before encouraging RE students to combine their brilliance with bravery in order to do good.
Richardson, 76, noted that his father worked as a janitor at a local department store in Miami, and yet could not use the restrooms there because of the color of his skin. He also recalled the vulgar signage on Miami Beach during his youth that barred Blacks from using the beach. Instead, his family went to the "colored beach" on Virginia Key. His inspiration, he said, came from August 28, 1963 – his parents took him to hear Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream speech" on the Washington Mall. That, he said, changed his life.
Richardson finished second in his class at Miami North Dade Junior/Senior High School, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at St. Thomas University and doctorate at Trinity Theological Seminary. Last summer, Miami-Dade County named a street in his honor near the church he pastored for 26 years. The reverend noted that Black History Month may serve as a catalyst to address ongoing issues of racial inequality and discrimination.
"I want to challenge you," Richardson told students, quoting a rapper. "'If your presence makes no impact, your absence will make no difference.' In order to do better, there has to be activism. There has to be advocacy .. to bring about positive change."
After the event, Richardson spoke with the officers and advisors of RE's Black Student Association – the president, Jackson; the vice president, Campbell; secretary Tariq Maduro '26; and advisors China Hutchins and Teagan Thompson – as well as Head of School Rachel Rodriguez, COO and Interim Head of the Upper School David Clark '86 and Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement Wendell Graham '74.
Students then proceeded to the cultural celebration, enjoying cuisine from Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago as well as traditional African-American fare. They were entertained by a Junkanoo band presented by Vernon Brooks and a stilt walker and drummer, and they perused African and Caribbean art and jewelry.
RE Parents' Association President Soledad Awad and parents Angella Carvalho, Max Alves-Delima, Rachel Benjamin-Alves de Lima, Bridjette Hoilett Green and Claudine Forrester helped organize and execute the event.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.