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Montclair Schools Celebrate Black History Month With Assemblies and Events

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Montclair Public Schools celebrated Black History Month in February with a variety of programs honoring the many contributions of African Americans throughout history. In addition to classroom activities and projects, some schools held assemblies that showcased the history, culture, music and more.*

Bradford Elementary School held an assembly, “Principles of Hip Hop Dance – Exploring the Roots of Hip Hop Culture.” The performance stressed respect, youth empowerment, health and fitness, and cooperation. It also taught students how hip-hop evolved from African American communities to a global audience. Students learned about the benefits of hip-hop music and dance, such as unifying diverse populations around the world, and how hip hop has been vital in promoting social and political awareness.

Bradford Students follow along with hip-hop moves.

Students practise their hip-hop moves

On February 28, Edgemont's students and staff gathered in the multi-purpose room for an assembly that topped off a month of African American History study and celebration. Through song, art, dramatic reading, and dance, each Edgemont class took the stage in honor of the wonderful achievements of African Americans in the United States.

Kindergarten and first graders sang A Tisket, A Tasket by renowned jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald while second graders presented a dramatic reading of We Came to America by Faith Ringgold. Ms. Pastorino's 3rd graders recited the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by poet, memoirist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and Ms. O'Connor's 3rd grade class danced to Wade in the Water. Fourth graders recited a series of poems by Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni and 5th graders motivated the audience to work hard like so many African-Americans who have influenced the world in so many ways.

A celebratory dance to the song One Love led by the dance company Str8 Up and Dance wrapped up the assembly.

Students dance exuberantly, waving flags and scarves

Students line up on the stage

First graders sing Ella Fitzgerald's A Tisket A Tasket

“Buzz Aldrin Middle School is committed to providing our students with authentic learning experiences which emphasize that what students learn is not just for school, but for life. We want our students to develop and exercise their voices and their gifts, and talents to influence the world for good,” said Principal Jill Sack.

The school’s Black History Month Celebration, held on Feb. 23, highlighted the achievements of people from all walks of life who have taken a stand against inequality and injustice. Students, faculty and guests participated in the assembly, singing, dancing, reciting spoken word and reenacting historical events, including Greensboro Sit-In at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.

The assembly was “hosted” by BAMS Social Studies teacher Joseph Turner and Montclair State University’s Dr. Lillie Edwards, who narrated as if they were on a radio show. “This assembly served to actively engage students with experiences that help them connect historical and present day activism. Students gain an understanding about how such actions are not simply individual acts or isolated events done by troublemakers, but are ‘the practice of freedom’ used to thwart injustice and ensure ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

The Buzz Aldrin Black History Program Team included Gail Robinson, Natale Burrell, Lisa Gary, Alecia Wells, Zetta Cool, and Joseph Turner.

Radio program and students holding up signs

Students speak in front of photographs of historical events.

Montclair High School’s Civics and Government Institute held its annual African American Achievement Dinner on Feb. 23. This year’s honorees were Wilhelm Young, deputy chief of the Montclair Police Department, and Nedra Clark, a recently retired MHS guidance counselor. The Institute worked closely with Young this past year, as its focus has been on the criminal justice system, explained CGI teacher Kaitlyn Schulz.

CGI has also worked with the Montclair Police Department to establish a Youth Council. Clark retired as an MHS counselor this year and was honored for her service to the students, especially when it came to scholarship opportunities.

On Tues., Feb. 28, Renaissance Middle School students walked to Montclair High School where they watched “Trailblazers:  A homage to those African Americans who did so that we can,” by Montclair’s Premiere Dance Theatre. Directed by Shirlise McKinley-Wiggins, the production featured performances that reflected the accomplishments of African Americans whose contributions made the world a better place, including Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Duke Ellington and President Barack Obama. “We have been a part of the Montclair community for the last 25 years,” said McKinley-Wiggins. “We always like to take the opportunity to educate and enhance the lives of students through dance.”

Dancers  portray black history.

Montclair’s Premiere Dance Theatre peform for Renaissance students.

*Glenfield’s annual African-American Career Day which brings community members to the school to speak to students about their professions, had to be postponed due to weather and will take place in April.

Updated: 3/9/2017