By Bonny Van
The Catholic Commentator
Through song, dance, artwork, display boards, costumes and recitations, students at Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge celebrated Black History Month on Feb. 22. The theme was “Rooted in Faith, Anchored in Hope.”
Students sing a song to kick-off the program at Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge celebrating Black History Month. Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator
After prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and the school creed, students, faculty, parents and visitors joined in singing the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Many members of the faculty wore traditional African dress or scarves and jewelry commemorating Africa.
“This year, many of the students are representing some of the prominent contributions of African Americans throughout our history,” said Catherel Barber, who teaches English and social studies. “Some are police officers, and representing ‘no more police brutality;’ some are going back in history and presenting someone who has long been forgotten.”
Singer Ella Fitzgerald, NBA star Bill Russell, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, former President Barak Obama and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens were among the many historical figures represented by students.
Eighth-grader Zawaskie Myles, who represented Owens, said learning about Owens and his challenges has been inspirational.
“I ran track already,” said Myles. “But it made me actually want to change the world while I’m doing it.”
Historian Carter G. Woodson is credited with starting “Negro History Week” in 1926 during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, an author, abolitionist and diplomat. The week-long celebration was expanded to Black History Month, which is observed in February in the United States and Canada; and, in October by Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
“(Participating in the program) inspired me to go learn more about my history and see what all the people did,” said eighth-grader Glen Cage, who portrayed Woodson.
“Many of them were very proud this morning in assembly by the people they were representing,” said Barber. “Some (students) are representing NASA; some are wearing the colors of Africa – it’s just cultural awareness and consciousness that we’re bringing forth.”
During a fiery speech, guest speaker Judge John Guidry of the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit, Second District, talked about contributions of African Americans “from slave ships to space ships.”
“Today, as we celebrate Black History Month, to God be the glory for what he has done,” Guidry said. “He’s allowed us to achieve in every walk of life.”
From there, Guidry mentioned numerous people who helped advance civil rights, government, technology, science, medicine, law, education, space exploration, entertainment and sports. “It’s not enough to look back at the past, but you and I must serve your present age,” said Guidry. “It’s time to pull up our pants, put our guns down, get off Facebook and put our face in a book and start doing things now … you too can be inventors; you too can be engineers; you, too, can be teachers; you can be the leaders of our community. But, it’s going to be hard work … but you can do all things through Christ.”