The Patrick Henry Post
Special Edition: Black History Month, February 24th, 2023
Black History Month at Patrick Henry
From the Desk of Ms. Gonzalez
From the Desk of Mrs. Ralphs
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!
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
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:
- How to teach elementary students about hard American History like slavery, resource from Learning for Justice
- Appropriate Ways to Teach Kids about Slavery, resource from Learning for Justice
- Video Series: Slavery by Another Name, What Happened after the Civil War, video series by PBS
The Origins of Black Culture: 1900s-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:
- African American Culture and History in the United States from The National Endowment for the Humanities
- The Harlem Renaissance, resource from History.com
- Biography of Bessie Smith, Biography of Langston Hughes, and Biography of Louis Armstrong from Biography.com
- African Americans' Legacy in Sports from The National Museum of African American History and Culture
Modern Black Culture: 1990s-Present Day
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
Patrick Henry Related Arts Team
Thank you, Ms. Godfrey, Ms. Gonzalez, and Mrs. Ralphs for planning this program since December, 2022! Your dedication to giving the students choice in what they researched as well as the format of their presentation made students deeply invested in their performance. This was a lot of work to pull off logistically, and you each did a phenomenal job making this a beautiful program!
Patrick Henry Teachers
Thank you, Classroom Teachers, Reading Specialists, and Special Education Teachers! You made sure Black History Month was also celebrated in your classroom setting, and you encouraged students in their practice and performance preparations. You gave up class time to make sure everyone felt confident, and you were cheerleaders to make our students feel successful on stage!
Patrick Henry Families
Thank you, Parents and Family Members! You encouraged your child to push themselves in this performance, and you allowed them to practice their dancing, singing, and creating in your own homes. You kept the legacy of Black History Month alive in your home and you taught your child so many lessons of how to honor and celebrate our heritage. You also cheered on your child's performance by showing up in person, joining us on our LiveStream, and watching the recording!