Dismantling the monolith

February 11, 2022

When considering the word monolith, it’s easy to think about a towering pillar made of stone, or a monument. However, groups of people can be considered monoliths, assumed to exhibit similar behaviors, thought processes, and characteristics based on their ethnicity or other attributes. 

Kelsei Wharton.

The Cheshire Academy community took a deep dive into the word on Feb. 10 when observing Black History Month, with the day’s events themed “Representation: Dismantling the Monolith.” Kicking off the day was a keynote address from Kelsei Wharton, a social impact strategist, creative consultant, and facilitator focused on combining the power of community and culture to shape the world today and for future generations. 

During his address, Wharton spoke about the origins of Black History Month, and how students can work to dismantle the monolith and stereotypes surrounding the Black community. He reflected on his sense of pride when Black History Month is recognized annually. “I stand with pride that there was a concerted effort years ago to ensure that Black people can be proud of their heritage and that all Americans should ensure and understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans. I feel a sense of pride as a Black man in America that I can not only honor the past, but use some of those learnings and those lessons to pave a path for me going forward.” 

“Representation Through the Language of Latin Dance.”

Students are at the forefront of making a difference, Wharton continued. The world, he said, is calling for changemakers today to pick up the mantle, equip themselves with the necessary tools, and work toward dismantling the monolith. “Immerse yourself in knowledge, curiosity, and thrive to get 1% better every day. In doing so, you’re opening the door just a little bit wider to let somebody else feel seen and feel valued. You’re bridging the gap between previously distant strangers. You’re also going a layer beneath the surface to signal that it’s OK to be you in your entirety.” 

Following Wharton’s address, students split into groups to attend three workshops: 

  • A Black Student Union-led discussion on microaggressions and stereotypes against the Black community, with members Temilade Onile ’22, Isaiah Riley ’23, Jaden Underwood ’23, and De’naya Rippey ’24 
  • “Examining Black Culture: Reflecting on the Past, Looking Towards the Future” with Roxbury Academic Support instructor Alex Conaway 
  • “Representation Through the Language of Latin Dance,” led by Alisa Bowens-Mercado and Jose Capo


On Friday, Feb. 11, the Black Student Union, in partnership with Visual Arts teacher and photographer Antonio Alfaiate, unveiled a portrait exhibition titled “Representation: Narrative Portraiture” in the Community Forum. The portraits of the students involved represent the spectrum of diversity within the Black community at CA. Through these visual representations and personal stories, students seek to dismantle monolith ideas of Blackness. 

Photos from the event can be viewed on our Flickr photo gallery here.