Truth be told, when the vision was first introduced, many people thought it was truly the impossible dream — to pull off a first class, both kid- and adult-captivating Black History Celebration at an elementary school. With scant resources and nagging constraints of time, given burdensome teacher loads to address the ever pressing No Child Left Behind test mandates, the task seemed formidable.
If you were within hearing distance of the Jack London Elementary School multi-use room the evening of February 28th you quickly discovered, though, the doubters proven wrong. A packed and enthusiastic crowd witnessed a soul-soaring tribute that was themed as “A Taste of African American Influence Through the Eyes of the Future”.
PTA Treasurer Velma Wilson was the visionary of the event and the spirited Mistress of Ceremonies. Behind the scenes making the event look easy, which these events never are, were PTA Board Members Principal Debra Harrington, Teacher Liason Carin Pantell, President Tanossa Miller, Vice President Debra White, 2nd Vice President Amy Diaz, and Secretary Marcita Enis.
In attendance were A.U.S.D. Superintendent Donald Gill, Board President Diane Gibson-Gray, Joy Mott and Walter Ruehlig. We were honored by the attendance of Brijet Finister, Miss Black USA 2011 – California, who gracefully took photos until her smile must have hurt. We were also gifted by the presence of actress and singer Bre’ly Evans, who is currently starring with Whitney Houston in the soon-to-be released movie ‘Sparkle’.
Acknowledgments go to the California PTA, NAACP, Clap Yo’ Hands Audio Production, Sticky Chicken & Ribs and, most importantly, to the children from all grade levels who performed so awesomely.
Kudos as well to Tanossa Miller for the peach cobbler, which I could have died for.
The program started with the National Anthem and then Mrs. Pantrell led the third graders in singing “My Country Tis of Thee.” The Negro National Anthem was performed by 5th graders Claryssa Wilson, Mariah Thomas and Sianne Enis, accompanied on keyboard by Darrel Thomas.
Principal Deborah Harrington and PTA President Tanossa Miller gave a history of the PTA followed by the Kucheza Ngoma II Dance Company performing a stirring dance and a surprise call on Superintendent Gill to strut his stuff to audience hoots and hollers.
Interspersed in the program were student performances; Jesse Wilson and Ezra Enis shared selections from MLK’s ” I Have a Dream” speech. The first graders sang Michael Jackson’s “We are the World”; the 2nd graders reprised a folk song from Ghana; the third grade did Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World”: and the fourth-fifth graders recited from biography posters of famous African-Americans.
Deer Valley High School Divine Voices and the Show Choir, led by Michelle Stark, then mesmerized the audience with a variety of numbers, culminating in a heart-grabbing blend of the civil rights classic “We Shall Overcome” and “Lean on Me.”
The Deer Valley High Advanced Dancers, led by Sharlene Sabonis, further electrified the audience.
It was a joyous night to remember and the naysayers obligingly ate crow, in between bites of sticky ribs. I look forward to Act II next year; by then the goose bumps may have settled.