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Black History Month performances take students on journey to Africa

By Ms. Gayle Voltz
A Black History Month program at East Campus Tuesday was not only entertainment at its highest, but an educational journey back to the roots of the motherland continent of Africa for our students and staff.

Our first feature for the East and Northeast 3rd-5th graders was the Sehah Youth and Fitness Center group, who wooed the students through messages sent from African drums.  The founder, Baba Shango, shared with the audience how the drums were a method of sending messages from one location to another before modern devices were created (telegraphic and cellular devices).

Click here for video by Meghan Lede

The drummers’ ages ranged from 12 to early 20s.  I was amazed at the talent the young men displayed. They are part of the Sehah program that was created in 1991 and serves the community by building self-esteem among the youth through cultural activities, and health and fitness.

Swatara Olushola, a local talent, is a classically trained vocalist who sang  “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  The powerful a cappella delivery was earth shaking. Ms. Olushola spoke to the audience about how the song -- often referred to as the "Black National Anthem"— was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900.

Our last performance was from the Impande Ye Africa, meaning “The Root of Africa,” a theatre production and performing arts company founded in 2012. Thandi Mthembu-Hicks, founder and artistic director, brought her troupe to perform music through talking drums, shekere shakers and, believe it or not,  Coca-Cola cans. Her group brought the heart of Africa through cultural attire, traditional Zulu dances and interactive story-telling with songs and dances.

Mr. Terrell Russell, Varnett's general manager of Facilities, Maintenance, Operations and Transportation, Ms. Toni  Fisher, Northeast Campus director and I -- along with other staff and students -- participated in various skits that included dances with songs. Mrs. Mthembu-Hicks asked the students questions about Africa. During the presentation she taught the students the many facets of  African culture. 

Ms. Fisher planned the perfect program for Northeast and East campuses. It was designed to envelop Black History Month with an African theme through artistic and historical cultural activities that will live in the minds of our students way past the month of February.

Dr. Margaret Stroud, our interim superintendent, was our guest and she truly enjoyed the performances. She joined in clapping along with the rhythmic songs and dances.  

Ms. Voltz is East Campus director

Photos by Meghan Lede


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