By: Kiashe Pugh
On February 26, 2016, the Gr. 5 and Gr. 7 students commemorated Black History Month by highlighting the achievements of African Americans throughout US history up until present day. Personalities such as Nat Turner, Fredrick Douglass, Michele Obama, Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Ben Carson, Maya Angelou, Paul Robeson, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan were all recognized for their ability to positively contribute to their communities despite being poor and the racial prejudices they faced during their lifetimes.
Students depicted their work in the forms of visual displays, ABC books, plays, poems and portraits. We learned amazing feats of greatness such as the story of Muhammad Ali, who was picked on as a child and couldn’t defend himself and had his bike stolen from him only to win an Olympic Gold Medal and later become the Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay and accepted Islam at the age of 33.
We heard the story of Michele Obama, an intelligent, hard-working young lady, from very humble means, who went to Princeton University. While at Princeton, Michelle had a complaint filed against her by her roommate’s mother because she was black. Michelle went on to graduate not only from Princeton, with honors, but from Harvard Law School as well. She was also the first African American woman to become First Lady of the USA.
We were told the story of Jackie Robinson who was the first African American to integrate major league baseball.
Lastly we were told the life story of a man who lost his father at age 6, saw his mother placed in a mental institution before he was a teenager and was separated from his siblings after his family ward eventually went to jail. Years later, this same young man became one of the most dynamic voices for civil rights in America and an advocate for justice “By Any Means Necessary”. He visited more than 15 countries and met with their dignitaries. He even went on the pilgrimage to Mecca after accepting Islam. They learned the story of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a life of transformation.
Students learned lessons of courage and determination in the face of hardship. They learned the outcome of perseverance and hard-work. The students went away knowing that regardless of one’s past, one’s poverty, or one’s skin color, with courage and determination, there is a chance to achieve great things and leave a mark on society. In order to bring about changes, we may have to challenge the status quo.