The month of February is Black History Month, a time for everyone to celebrate the achievements of African Americans. On Friday, February 26, 2021, Achievement House Cyber Charter School held a school-wide assembly celebrating Black History Month. About one hundred and fifty students and staff members gathered virtually to share poems, rap, and other pieces of written word to commemorate African American culture and experiences.
The Black History Month Assembly extravaganza was spear headed by an inspiring female committee of African American, AHCCS staff members. Shana Harris, Candice Mayo, Kim Brown, Heather Robinson, Emlyn Degannes and Lentoya Ellison met weekly with classes during Future Ready Sessions to encourage and support the sharing of student’s stories and experiences in different art forms for the Black History Month assembly.
Eleventh Grade Mentor, Shana Harris, stated, “I am so honored to have worked with the women of the Black History Month Planning Committee in our three special Future Ready Sessions and the Poetry Extravaganza this month! I am particularly proud of the students’ participation and positive response to each session. It was our goal for students of color to see themselves in us and for all our students to learn and connect with us and our African American culture in a real and genuine way. What better way to do that than through poetry, spoken word, rap and times of sharing?“
The Black History Month Assembly Extravaganza was not only a great occasion for students and staff to share but it also was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to learn from one another.
“What a wonderful experience it was to work alongside some extraordinary women during our Black History Month celebration. I hoped that our students and staff were encouraged and inspired by the presentations. This is a time in our country where change needs to happen. I hope that our students were encouraged to find their voice, use their voice and be the changes that they want to see. Their contributions to the Poetry Extravaganza were truly thought provoking. “If you do not see it…. then be it” is a motto that I use to challenge young people to aspire for greatness,” stated Special Education Teacher, Kim Brown.
Ten students submitted and shared spoken pieces during the Extravaganza. Act One which was entitled “Social Activism” celebrated Black History showcased student submissions by Elle Podwats, Marek Manikowski, Alexandra Maurent Barbosa, and Alexis Smith. The second act was entitled “Who Am I”, reflected on what makes a person different featured student pieces by Joseph Barnhart, Zoe Findlay, Juliannis Diaz Vazquez, Mya Shoffler and Clayton Bird. Overall, both acts demonstrated that individual uniqueness should be valued. However, at the core everyone is equal regardless of race and should be treated with kindness and respect. All student submissions were thoughtful, emotional, and impressive. All the presented pieces were widely celebrated by all the students and staff who attended the Assembly.
Emlyn Degannes stated, “I am proud to know that you were enriched by the Black History Extravaganza. Our aim was to continue to represent with pride the culture of people from the African Diaspora and especially demonstrate the beauty which resides in us despite the struggles and through the triumphs. As Poet Nikki Giovanni shared in her poem entitled: “Black History Month” “If Black History Month is not viable, then wind does not carry the seed and drop them on fertile ground.” And we know this process is ever accruing, therefore, and I quote Ms. Giovanni once again, “You’re as Good as Anybody Else, You’re Got A Place Here Too.” This is the message I long for the children to believe with all their hearts.”
Other pieces were shared during the Assembly Extravaganza included an introductory drum video, “Black History Month” poem by Nikki Giovanni, the Black National Anthem/ Lift Every Voice & Sing, African Dance by Kulu Mele at the Philadelphia Come Together Dance Festival. Also, a synopsis of James Weldon, Maya Angelou, and the Debbie Allen Dance Team were presented. The Black History Month Committee also shared their unique version of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” Lastly, the final act of the Assemble Extravaganza featured a poem by the *Twin Poets.
All the student submissions were wonderful and there were nine overall winners of the Assembly Extravaganza. The Middle School winners were Alexis Smith first place, Elena Lewis second place and Marek Kanikowski third place. In ninth and tenth grade: Janiya Washington came in first place, Alexandra Maurent Barbosa came in second place and Doris Molina was third. In eleventh and twelfth grade: Clayton Bird came in first place, Elle Podwats came in second place and Carrie Bowes was the third-place winner. Congratulations to all the winners, to all the other students who presented their meaningful work and to the Black History Month Committee for planning such a moving event that will leave an everlasting impact.
* The Twin Poets are Tutors, mentors, big brothers, community activist, leaders, scholars, summa cum laude grads, allies, soldiers, father-figures, artist, camp directors, coaches, veterans, counselors, historians, master social workers, non- profit administrators, brothers, friends, fathers, and sons whose goal is to teach children the important of self-expression and how writing down their thoughts to help themselves and others who face the same struggles and challenges.
To learn more about the Twin Poets visit http://www.twinpoets.org/