Students get ready for Black History Month program

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published February 26, 2015

HARPER WOODS — Hundreds of people from the community will once again converge on Harper Woods Secondary School for a program that generates a lot of excitement in the city — the districtwide Black History Month program.

This year’s program is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Harper Woods Secondary School auditorium.

“The program is open to the community and will feature the acts of Beacon, Tyrone and Harper (Woods) middle and high schools,” Harper Woods Schools Parent and Community Engagement Specialist Deborah Whitelow said in an email.

The program culminates with a dinner reception for the community.

Student performances will include singing, dancing and poetry. They’re adding in mini-plays this year, and they will pay tribute to a living person who has made an impact on history.

“We usually have a really great time,” Whitelow said. “There’s usually 500 to 600 people who show up.”

The students from kindergarten through high school practice their performances leading up to the program.

“We’re going into nonstop rehearsals,” Whitelow said last week.

Robert Gray, who does video recordings for the City Council and Board of Education meetings, announced the upcoming program during last week’s City Council meeting.

“A lot of work goes into it,” he said, adding that the elementary students have been practicing for a few months to get ready.

Beacon principal Janet Gottsleben said there is a lot of pride at the school.

“We are excited once again to perform on the big show. Second- and third-graders love to get on the big stage and show the audience the result of their hard work,” Gottsleben said. “Parents are over the top with pride and usually bring extended family to support the children.”

Third-grade teacher Kenyatta Hughes is organizing this year’s performance from Beacon students. Third-graders are putting together an Underground Railroad quilt.

“The quilt code is the idea that African-Americans, slaves, used quilts to communicate information about how to escape to freedom. Each student will create individual squares, which will be taped or quilted together as a grade-level quilt.

“Students are excited about making their square creative and original,” she said. “They are also excited about this being a fun, palatable way to share history.

“We are also singing the song ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ This song refers to the light inside each individual and how, whether standing up alone or joining together, each little bit of light can break the darkness. The students are very excited to sing and share history through song.”

Harper Woods Mayor Ken Poynter said that he has attended the Black History Month program.

“It’s really an excellent program,” he said.