African-American athletes, musicians and scientists were portrayed by students at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School on Feb. 27. The 21st Century B.E.S.T. Program hosted its Black History Month celebration, “Our History Comes Alive.”
Students Dimarion Donaldson and Imani McPhaul played the parts of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama while introducing each skit. Sophia Hernandez Morency and Natalyah Smith sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black American national anthem.
Singer and storyteller April Armstrong was the special guest and performed traditional African songs. With the help of students, she told the story of Stagecoach Mary, the first African-American woman to serve as a star route mail carrier.
The students portrayed African-American icons such as Arthur Ashe, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, as well as some “hidden figures” like Dorothy Vaughan, a leading mathematician, and Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker water gun. They did their own research and wrote speeches.
Sixth-grade teacher Denise Graham, site coordinator of the 21st Century program, said the purpose of the event was to teach students about the various contributions that African-Americans have made in society, and inspire them to work hard. She also noted that Park Avenue has a diverse population and that children of all cultures enthusiastically came together to celebrate.
“The students did a wonderful job in capturing the essence of the people they portrayed,” said Ms. Graham. “There was a lot of work that went into it, and they put on a great performance.”