By Amanda Gordon
NBCT Art Teacher & A+ Coordinator
Diggs-Latham Elementary School
Black History Month 2018 was a great time of learning and celebrating at Diggs-Latham Elementary A+ Magnet School for Arts Integration & Performing Arts. Throughout the month, students and teachers dressed in Afrocentric Attire and the colors of Kwanzaa each Tuesday and learned important moments in Black History through daily quotes and announcements. On Wednesdays, students were invited to complete a Trivia Search to depend their understanding of famous African American people and events; the Trivia Search was a game with the chance to earn prizes. Hallways, bulletin boards and classroom doors were decorated with symbols and images related to the themes of Diversity and Unity. The faculty and staff even enjoyed a potluck, Soul Food Luncheon for the monthly hospitality meal.
On Tuesday, February 27 at 1:00pm in the afternoon, the student body, staff, teachers, parents, and visitors came together for a culminating event that focused on the Arts Magnet Program. Mrs. Amanda Gordon, the Art Teacher and Arts Integration Coordinator who also served as the Black History Month Coordinator, opened the ceremony and introduced the Master of Ceremonies, Makelti Jackson-Thompson. Makelti participated in the annual Black History Celebration for the first time in Pre-Kindergarten and has also been active in the Dance Honors Program over the years. Mr. Leonard Rowe, UNCSA alumni and former NY Opera singer, led the student body in the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” After the Master of Ceremonies gave a brief history of Black History Month and Carter G Woodson who originally started the event, 4th & 5th grade Band and Orchestra Honors students under the direction of Mr. Rick Sigler and Mrs. Lisa Morris, band and orchestra teachers, performed “This Little Light of Mine.” Also during the celebration, Mrs. Amanda Nelson, dance teacher, directed 5th grade Honors Dancers in an original piece to the song “Feeling Good” and the 5th grade drumming circle, “Kushangaza,” (which means awesome in Swahili,) performed African drumming rhythms. Zaree Fulwood, 4th grader and Imari Brown, 1st grader led Art Club in two Spoken Word pieces written by Mrs. Amanda Gordon. The crowd joined in on the call and response poem reciting “We Are One Together.” The ceremony concluded with the entire student body joining Mrs. Gordon in singing “Free at Last.” Master of Ceremonies, Makelti Jackson-Thompson, also closed the ceremony encouraging everyone to come together despite our differences to work hard and change our world that unfortunately still has issues of prejudice and racism.
The Keynote Speaker for our annual Black History Celebration was Ms. Aliza’ Diggs-Bailey. Ms. Diggs-Bailey is the Executive Director of the Delta Fine Arts Center and has 25 years of corporate, small business, and non-profit expertise. She received the Hanes Innovation Award for the development and introduction of the Tagless Tee-Shirt. She is a graduate of North Carolina State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Textiles & Apparel Management. She spends her free time with her son Jaylen 19, a freshman at North Carolina State University and daughter Jayda 14, a freshman at East Forsyth High School. Ms. Diggs-Bailey spoke to students about the artwork of Mr. John Biggers, a painter, muralist, sculptor and educator born in Gastonia, NC just outside of Charlotte. She even brought 3 pieces of his work that belong to the Delta Fine Arts Center. She shared aspects of Mr. Biggers life and struggles he had to overcome in order to be successful in his career. She encouraged students not to let anything get in the way of their dreams. “Dream big, paint your own picture of life and live life to the fullest,” she exclaimed as she ended her speech.
Black History Month at Diggs-Latham was exciting and inspiring. It was a time showcasing our Arts Magnet Program through performances and shows. Events, visitors, fact studies, trivia games, and more helped inform students of some difficult truths of slavery and struggles during the Civil Rights Movement in order to help them grow in unity to work together as a strong, connected student body. Black History Month events merged aspects of traditional African culture as well as African American culture. Writing, social studies, and the Arts were integrated. Students as well as faculty and staff members ended the 2018 Black History Month with a renewed since of harmony and peace, reflecting on how far we have come toward true unity in this county as well as realizing how far we still need to go.