Teens celebrate ethnicity, not just Black history
By T Martin
“Black history is a part of American history, and we need to be proud and acknowledge our heritage – African, Spanish, Asian… – at all times!”
Roberto Clemente Middle School Assistant Principal Crystal Clark encouraged students at her school to celebrate their ethnicity no matter what time of year it is, not just during Latino Heritage month or Black History month, during the school’s Black History talent show.
5th and 6th graders attended the March 4th opening from 9 to 11 AM, and 7th and 8th graders attended the March 5th show from 1:30 to 3 PM.
Clark and composer/vocalist/pianist Brian Michael Evans led students in their energetic performances from choir to hip-hop. Evans, contracted by the school to organize a choir, opened with an upbeat rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The school’s students and personnel collaborated for the show, particularly throughout Clark’s PowerPoint presentation, “African-American History A-Z.” 6th-graders Marlisette Nuñez-Pérez and Sharlene Rosario lent their technical expertise to project the presentation against a side wall of the school’s auditorium and to take a few snapshots with the school’s digital camera.
Students and staff alike took turns reading short biographies of notable African-Americans for every letter of the alphabet, sprinkled with poetry and piano recitals, solo performances, choreography, hip-hop and rap songs, and more.
Eighth-grader Jennifer Aponte-Ortiz read a Maya Angelou poem after Clark introduced the program and welcomed the audience. Jennifer also celebrated her birthday on the show’s March 4th opening.
Science lab teacher Lisa Cephas wowed audiences at both performances with her recital of “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou, her second rendition showing greater vigor than the first.
“I’m going to read this to you,” she told students, “and I want you ladies out there to listen up!”
Listen they did, even rising to their feet at the end of the recital and erupting in applause as Cephas left the stage.
Honoring jazz legend Duke Ellington with a piano solo was Gabriel Rodriguez, another 8th-grader at the school. His performance of “Sabor de Mi” incited cheers from the moment he sat at the piano.
Clark even lent her own singing talent as a background singer while four students paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the show.
“Martin, Martin… Your name will never be forgotten,” she sang as students read excerpts about the life and work of Dr. King.
Computer science teacher Bruce Stern followed shortly with the bio on Allen Iverson, ending with a message of his own for the youths.
“There is one unique Allen Iverson, and it’s possible that you may not be able to make your way in life playing basketball. That’s why it’s important to learn how to read and to do math and listen to your teachers because they all want you to succeed as much as Iverson has!”
Soloist Crystal Cruz overcame the technical difficulties that cropped up sporadically throughout both performances and sang a cappella her rendition of “Miracles” from the hit feature “Prince of Egypt.”
Ending the program on the same high note on which it started, Evan and the choir performed their “We Shall Overcome” medley, featuring soloists Jessenia and Jonathan. For the March 5th finale, they performed this song with the school’s string band under the direction of Mrs. Lineman and Mr. Thompson.
Clark expressed her thanks for help from staff, students and volunteers whose participation helped her pull of the shows to which Jennifer referred when she said of Clark, “Give Mrs. Clark a round of applause. She worked hard to do this, and she did it for us!”
The following appeared in the school’s daily bulletin days after the curtain fell on the last performance:
“I’d like to thank the following staff members for their support with the “African American History from A-Z”. Special thanks to Ms. Cephas who always find time to support and participate in every way, even when she is under the weather. Thanks to Mr. Lyons, Mr. Belz, Mrs. Perry, Ms. Gisondi, Mrs. McGovern, Mr. Humphrie, Mr. Stern and Mrs. Cohen and his students for their participation. I appreciate Mr. Craig and Mr. Hoard for the signs in the Civil Rights protest. Thanks to Mr. Martin and students from Gen Y for their technical assistance. I appreciate Mr. Reilly, and everyone who assisted with disruptive students during the show. Congratulations and thanks to Ms. Lineman, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Evans for the music and choir contribution. Thanks also to the Building Engineer staff for all of their assistance. Thank you to Ms. Courain, Ms. Brooks, Ms. Gallagher, Ms Koopalethes, Ms. Draham, Mrs. Velazquez and Mrs. Rosen for practicing with some students.
Thanks to Ms. Enriquez-Beitler and Mr. Binder for allowing me to use their CD player. Thanks to every staff member who allowed their students to participate and was patient and flexible during our rehearsals. Thanks to everyone who supported this project in any way, just in case I forgot to mention you. Lastly, thanks to Ms. Mazzuca for her understanding and support of multi cultural programs that enrich all of our lives.
– Crystal Clark”