Nottingham student empowers classmates with virtual Black History Month presentation

Nottingham student empowers classmates

Malik Robinson, Nottingham High School senior class president, advocates for “Black excellence” by creating an annual student-run Black History Month event.
Published: March 1, 2021
Nottingham High School senior class president Malik Robinson (upper left corner), Nottingham teacher Cavin Robinson (center) and SCSD students involved in the Black History Month virtual presentation started preparing for the event in mid-January, Ahmed said.
Nottingham High School senior class president Malik Robinson (upper left corner), Nottingham teacher Cavin Robinson (center) and Syracuse City School District students involved in the Black History Month virtual presentation started preparing in mid-January, said co-creator of the event Hawa Ahmed.

Cavin Robinson was a political philosopher for 14 years. After having countless discussions about politics, Black history and deeper meanings in life, it’s no wonder his son, Malik Robinson, became “fascinated” with interpreting his place in society at an early age.

“He instilled in me the importance of understanding history and making things applicable to your moment no matter what,” Malik Robinson said.

Malik Robinson, senior class president at Nottingham High School, often pulls from his family values to advocate for “Black excellence and Black achievability,” and it is this commitment that inspired him to create a student-run, annual Black History Month presentation at Nottingham in 2019. This year, the presentation was virtual, but that only created more opportunities for the class president to educate his school community about Black culture.

“Black history is not just for Black people to celebrate,” Malik Robinson said. “It is for all races to celebrate, because Black people have influenced us in all sorts of capacities. There’s Black influence everywhere, so it is important to know and celebrate, especially in an urban environment like Syracuse.”

Malik Robinson and Nottingham senior class treasurer Hawa Ahmed co-created the presentation sophomore year to create awareness around Black culture and exemplify accomplishments and success in the Black community. Involving Black students from multiple Syracuse City School District schools (SCSD), Ahmed said this year’s presentation also addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and recognized local Black-owned businesses to empower students beyond the stereotypes placed on them in society.

“We have so much more to offer,” Ahmed said.

Because this year’s celebration was virtual, Malik Robinson and his classmates were also able to put together a SCSD alumni college panel, where SCSD alumni talked about their college experiences and encouraged students about entering higher education as a Black student.

Malik Robinson, Nottingham High School senior class president, created Nottingham’s annual Black History Month presentation with his classmate Hawa Ahmed in 2019.
Malik Robinson, Nottingham High School senior class president, created Nottingham’s annual Black History Month presentation with his classmate Hawa Ahmed in 2019.

“Blackness is current; Blackness is recent; Blackness is fluid,” said Cavin Robinson, who currently teaches at Nottingham. “It’s inclusive, and so I think they did a really good job of showing Blackness as a continuum — not just great individuals who’ve accomplished things in the past but people who today are working and thriving.”

Malik Robinson said once the presentation was published on YouTube, multiple teachers included the video in their lesson plans this month, which wouldn’t have been possible had the presentation been done in-person.

Born in Chicago, Malik Robinson moved to Syracuse in the third grade. From elementary to middle school, he said he attended both public and private school and was also home-schooled for a year by his mother.

At the private school, Malik Robinson said he developed an “awareness at a young age” of his identity when he discovered he was the only African American student in his class.

“I just felt like I kind of had to represent more than just me,” Malik Robinson said. “My parents always told me, ‘You gotta represent more than just yourself, so make sure you’re always carrying yourself right, make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do because that’s how you can either reinforce stereotypes or break them.’”

Having this family support system behind him, Malik Robinson said he’s always felt comfortable pursuing various interests, like music and baking, despite stigmas surrounding Black people. Growing up, he said he always knew he wanted to lead his class in high school.

“His motivation and his drive are what got him elected,” Nottingham Principal Kenneth Baxter said. “They wanted somebody that was going to be able to be a mover and a shaker, and that’s Malik.”

Along with the Black History Month celebration, Malik Robinson has created a variety of school events and activities for his classmates, including a “pep band” for school events last year and a spirit week celebration during hybrid learning this year.

Witnessing Malik Robinson’s accomplishments both at home and at school, Cavin Robinson said his son is a strong “ambassador” for his class in the opportunities he creates for them.

Malik Robinson said he leads by example from past class presidents like James Dixon III, who spoke in the Black History Month presentation’s college panel. Like Dixon, Malik Robinson said he wants to be remembered by the Nottingham community as someone “who really did right for themselves and did right for the community.”

After graduating this year, Malik Robinson said he and Ahmed plan to pass down the responsibility to underclassmen students who understand the celebration’s importance.

“It’s not, you know, a project by Malik. It’s a celebration of a culture, of a people, of a group, and a group that continues to be heavily represented in the school,” Cavin Robinson said. “My hope is that people — long after he’s gone — of that community will still take pride in the same way he has — him being who he is and where he’s from — and would love to take the opportunity to celebrate that and share it with the larger school community and also Syracuse at large.”

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is the Life and Style Lead Producer for The NewsHouse and a newspaper and online journalism junior at Syracuse University.