Inspiring Stories, Music, Performance, & Poetry at Black History Assembly
After welcoming students, families, and guests, Head of School Mark Stanek outlined the theme for the Assembly—taking a stand.
Mark recounted the experience of renowned musician Dr. Don Shirley, which was recently made into the film Green Book. The Green Book was a travel guide that listed businesses friendly to African Americans. Celebrity status didn't make a difference. Famous African Americans, such as Dr. Shirley, Duke Ellington, and Motown stars used the book to stay safe as they traveled the country. "Think about performing in a venue," Mark said, "and then after the show being told you're not welcome there." Mark rang a powerful note saying, "Let’s be clear: the fight is not finished. Let us heed the call to action and—no matter our race or ethnicity—be upstanders against racism, bigotry, and bias.”
Vanessa Brantley Newton gave a stirring keynote address, sharing examples of discrimination she experienced as a child traveling with her family in the South. "Despite the treatment we received, my mom and dad taught me to love others. Children have to be taught to hate, and it's our responsibility as adults to teach them something else." Vanessa then showed a slideshow that interspersed her illustrations with photos from the 1963 Birmingham Childrens March, made even more powerful by her singing a moving rendition of We Shall Overcome.
The student performances amplified these messages. The Kindergartners showed a video they had made called Upstanders. Illustrated with their drawings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, and others, their narration described principles and behaviors that help someone be an upstander. Grade VIII wrote and recited a forceful, eloquent "found poem" based on quotes from leaders in the fight for social justice. Grade VI performed a spoken, choreographed tribute to South African singer, actress, and civil-rights activist Miriam Makeba. And Grade V delivered a compelling, heartfelt performance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's. I Have a Dream speech.
On top of these inspiring performances, the music department gave everyone ways to join into the celebration with three All Sings and performances by the BB&N Chorale, Gold Jazz Band, and Silver Chorus.