Black History Celebrations at ES

“A B C…It’s as easy as 1 2 3,” rang out in the cafeteria of Harmony-Leland Elementary School February 17 as miniature versions of the Jackson 5 danced across the stage.

Clad in purple-sequined gowns, Diana Ross and the Supremes invited students to dance with them. The Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Pips also made appearances. The musical performances were part of the school’s celebration of Black History Month. The toe-tapping, entertaining program encouraged students, teachers and parents to “Get Down with Motown.” “We decided to be a little more upbeat this year,” said Phyllis Harris, a Harmony-Leland third grade teacher. “[The students are] learning about some of the beginnings of the music industry for African-Americans. There was a time when African-Americans were not allowed to be on television or get record deals. Motown became one the biggest record companies in the industry to start bringing in African-American artists.” Harris, who coordinated the “Get Down with Motown” show, played a member of the Supremes to the delight of the students watching. Local black history storyteller and actress Joanna Maddox helped pump up the Motown groove with her portrayal of Diana Ross. This wasn’t Maddox’s first visit to Harmony-Leland. In the past, she has stood in as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks to help students explore black history. “I think it is important to remember those who came before us and their contributions to America,” added Maddox. “I’m happy that [the students] are now studying black history because black history is American history.” Students in kindergarten through fifth grade also slipped into character to help bring history to life during the “Get Down with Motown” performances. “It is important to bring history alive for our students because often our students don’t understand their history,” said Dr. Simmons-Deveaux. “We want them to have a clear understanding of their backgrounds so they to can make contributions.” Leading up to the black history month program, Harmony-Leland students researched and studied the artists of the era. Harris said the Motown performance will inspire students to learn more about the famous artists and the importance of Motown. Harmony-Leland’s principal wanted the students to gain an appreciation of the contributions Motown artists made to black history. Second grader Matthew understands the message Dr. Simmons-Deveaux aimed to pass on. “We are celebrating African-Americans because they have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place,” Matthew said.

Trudy Delhey, Supervisor
Social Studies

Contributing Author, Nan Kiel, Communications

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