The Patrick Henry Post

Special Edition: Black History Month, February 24th, 2023

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Black History Month at Patrick Henry

This month, we have been preparing for today's culminating performance for Black History Month. In each of our Related Arts classes, students have chosen various art forms, dances, and musical expressions to study a portion of Black history. Our program this year was broken into four phases of history, and our students were able to study artists, musicians, dancers, scientists, researchers, inventors, and key figures in that time period. Take a look below for the highlights from each of our Related Arts teachers on how they have been preparing our students for this epic program!

From the Desk of Ms. Gonzalez

Our Patrick Henry musicians have had a very busy month! The students have been working diligently on their Black History Month Showcase performance. We've spent time studying music of diverse cultures in Africa as well as significant musical events that were influenced by Black Americans. The 2nd and 3rd grade students studied African American spirituals and their significance during slavery and the power of gospels during the civil rights movement. Our 4th and 5th graders have been working hard to learn about and participate in drum circles during class. The Related Arts department understands this is no easy feat for our students, so we made sure to include some fun and games to keep things light after rehearsals! We are so proud of them and can't wait for everyone to see them during their performance.
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From the Desk of Mrs. Ralphs

In PE students have been working hard to prepare for the Black History Month program. Students got the option of being a part of the Dance (PE), Music or Art group. For the whole, month of February each student has been working on their part of the program. 1st grade has been learning the “Cha Cha” slide. The 2nd and 3rd graders have been learning the “Twist.” And lastly, the 4th and 5th grade students have been learning the dance called the “Kassa.” On February 24th, the students were able to perform in front of their classmates, teachers, and families. I am so excited to see all their hard work pay off!

From the Desk of Ms. Godfrey

Hello, families! The artists at Patrick Henry are in the midst of a strong year of art-making!

Pre-K and kindergarten students have been learning art processes through book connections, art centers, and explorative play in the art room. Some of our favorite centers this year include sculpting, engineering and design, sewing, and, of course, painting! Rotating through centers each class allows a variety of creative activities along with opportunities to build friendship skills, like sharing and cooperation.

Upper elementary artists have been hard at work preparing for the Black History Showcase! 1st grade studied Faith Ringgold and created pieces for a collaborative narrative quilt, 2nd and 3rd grade studied African cultures and created masks and necklaces inspired by their learning, and 4th and 5th grade learned about the imaginative artist, Nick Cave, and his "Soundsuits" before making their own. We were so excited to show off our creations at the live performance!

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Black History Month Program Highlights

African Glory: Ancient Africa - 1600s

We started our program celebrating the glorious past of African civilizations. In our performance, our students performed dances and songs from hundreds of years ago that are still important in today's Black culture. We also displayed our students' artistic creations of masks and necklaces that were inspired by African traditions and cultures.

Our second and third grade artists delved deep into various African cultures. In past and present African traditions, masks may be worn for special occasions like religious ceremonies, harvest celebrations, rituals, funerals, and births. Our artists also learned about the beaded necklaces created by artisan women of the Maasai culture in Kenya and Tanzania. The students used their learning of African cultures as inspiration to create their own masks and necklaces.

Our song, Fanga Alafia, is a traditional welcome song from one of the largest ethnic groups of West Africa, the Yoruba people. Throughout our song, you will hear the repeated phrases "fanga Alafia" which means "welcome and peace" as well as "ashay" which translates to "be with us." During the song, you also notice some students playing drums.

Our dance is called "Kassa." This dance was performed during harvest time when farmers went and worked in the field. This is performed by our 4th and 5th graders.

For more resources on Ancient African civilizations, kings, queens, and accomplishments, see the resources below:

The Atrocities of Slavery: 1600s-1900s

The second act of our program addresses the harsh world of slavery that tried to destroy the African people. One thing you will see in each performance is how strong our ancestors remained, even when they were living in impossible conditions.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders learned about African American Spirituals. Spirituals are a genre of music that is associated with Black Americans during the slavery era. These songs sing of experiences of being held in slavery and coded messages on how to escape. Michael Row was first noted during the Civil War at St. Helena's Island in South Carolina. The song was sung by former slaves who were abandoned on the island and trying to escape through the River Jordan.

This portion of our program also involves important information our students learned during their "Cereal Box Research Projects." These African American figures overcame many obstacles and barriers as they fought for freedom and equality.

Though slavery was a worldwide crime against Africans and African Americans, our ancestors kept fighting for their freedom and their dignity.

For more resources on how to talk to students about the atrocities of slavery, see below:

The Origins of Black Culture: 1900s-1980s

After the Civil War, Black Americans began to take back their freedom by creating their own culture and traditions. In the third act of our program, we explored important people, movements, and cultures from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Preschool and Kindergarten students studied the colorful life of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1972. You will see our students' art displayed all around us today. Preschool and Kindergarten students were inspired by Alma's style of colors and abstract patterns in their own art piece. Preschool also learned about Dr. Martin Luther King's work as a Civil Rights leader. Although they missed the live performance while they took their nap, the preschoolers pre-recorded their performance that is included below.

The gospel, "This Little Light of Mine," was used as a freedom song during the Civil Rights Movement. Civil Rights activists used music as a vital tool to fight for equality. Rutha Mae Harris, a member of the Freedom Singers, explained the power of song by saying, "Music was an anchor. It kept us from being afraid. You start singing a song, and somehow, no one would hit you." Our 2nd and 3rd graders loved this song and worked hard to gather that same energy and spirit those fearless Civil Rights fighters had before us!

Ms. Versen's class studied the revolutionary life of activist and artist Faith Ringgold. She fights for more representation of Black and female artists and is accomplished in many forms of art - painting, sculpting, quilting, and is even a children's book author and illustrator. The students read her book, "Tar Beach," and created their own quilt piece inspired by the main character's flying adventures.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders also worked hard to learn the inspired rock and roll dance called, "The Twist." This dance was invented in 1861 by Chubby Checker, and dominated the cultural scene for almost a decade.

For more resources on the establishment of Black Culture in the 1900s, see below:

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Modern Black Culture: 1990s-Present Day

In our final performances, our students moved into modern American history to celebrate Black culture from the 1990s to today.

Our 4th and 5th graders studied the life and art of a fellow Missouri artist, Nick Cave. Nick Cave is an active artist today and creates Soundsuits. Soundsuits are sculptures that can be worn and cover the performer from head to toe in a variety of objects and materials such as sticks, beads, fabrics, and more. He was inspired to create these pieces as "metaphorical suits of armor" in response to the Rodney King police brutality event in 1991. His Soundsuits have now become "vehicles of empowerment" because there is no bias of race, gender, or class when they are worn. Our students have created their own Soundsuit using a variety of paper materials.

Ms. Versen's 1st grade class performed "The Cha Cha Slide," which was invented in the late 1990s by DJ Casper.

For more resources on modern Black culture and the way it influences all aspects of American life today, see below:

Hey, Black Child + Lift Every Voice

Our program began and ended with our students reciting the poem, "Hey, Black Child." This poem was written to inspire Black children to be anything they want to be. Ms. Ivory's class also opened our performances with "Lift Every Voice," celebrating not only our students' beautiful voices and ideas, but also those ancestors' voices who came before us.

Thank You!

At Patrick Henry, we believe that Black History Is American History!

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Upcoming Events at Patrick Henry

March 13th - March 16th: Parent-Teacher Conferences

Please contact your child's teacher to schedule your conference for the following days/times:

  • Monday, March 13th, 3:15-5:15pm
  • Tuesday, March 14th, 3:15-5:15pm
  • Wednesday, March 15th, 3:15-5:15pm
  • Thursday, March 16th, 3:15-3:45pm

March 17th - No School

There will be no school on Friday, March 17th. All SLPS schools will be closed.

March 20th - March 24th - Spring Break

All SLPS schools will be closed for Spring Break on March 20th - March 24th. School will reopen on Monday, March 27th.

March 31st - Field Trip for 2nd-5th Grade

All 2nd-5th graders will go on a walking field trip to the Gateway Arch. Students will not only get a tour of the new grounds and museum, but they will also travel all the way to the top of the Arch for a view of our beautiful city! Students will end the day with a Riverboat Cruise and they even get a free lunch while they are on the Mighty Mississippi. Parents! Please make sure you turn in your child's field trip permission slip and get your child to school on time so they do not miss out on this opportunity!