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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
MARCH 1, 2017 – On Friday morning, Gwen Johnson-Green headed over to Carter High School to see students portraying notable African-Americans in the Living Wax Museum.
The museum also included a depiction of the Underground Railroad.
“I have never seen anything like it,” said Johnson-Green, who is the Director of Alternative Education for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “The Underground Railroad and safe houses touched me more than anything.”
In the afternoon, Johnson-Green returned to Carter to participate in “Taking the Stage: A Celebration of Black History.” She had been invited to talk about the transition from segregation to integration in schools.
“This has been such an exciting day for me,” she told the Carter students, teachers, teacher assistants and others in the audience.
She went on to talk about how there was a time when “we were separate and not equal” and how people of different ethnicity and backgrounds were not educated together. She talked about the steps along the way that brought us to a better day.
“We learned to respect everyone and embrace diversity,” she said. “Education is the true game changer.”
Singing, dancing and music performances were an integral part of Taking the Stage, which was organized by teacher Leshan Cunningham and others at Carter.
Many of the performers were teachers and students at Carter. For instance, teacher Claudette Goodwin sang “The Greatest Love of All,” and the members of the Smart Girls Club recited “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.
Students from Parkland High School also came over to participate. Members of The Steel Groove Drummers were there along with members of the Dancing Debs and the Parkland Dance Co.
As Carter students were coming in beforehand, Parkland senior Bryan El, who plays the snare drum, said he was happy to be there. He enjoys participating in The Steel Groove.
“I meet a bunch of great people through this,” he said. “It has helped me meet friends who will probably last a lifetime.”
“It’s really fun, exciting,” said senior Rosalva Pascual, who plays the cymbals.
This was the second year for Living Wax Museum which Cunningham established as a way to celebrate Black History Month. Students could choose African-American people from such categories as science, writing, sports and entertainment to depict. Those present this year included Lena Horne, Martin Luther King Jr., Will Smith, Michael Jordan and Cam Newton.
Sam Dempsey, the Division Director for Exceptional Children Programs, was one of those who attended.
“We were very pleased to see outstanding work by the staff and students of the Focus Team at Carter, Dempsey said. “Approximately 35 students represented through costume, oral or written presentation, and poster designs famous individuals. Rosa Parks, Willie Mayes, Thurgood Marshall rose and shared about their lives to a stream of visitors in the Carter Gym for more than three hours. The students’ dedication and commitment to their efforts were striking. A truly inspirational experience! “
Cunningham thinks the students enjoyed the experience.
“I feel like it’s boosted their confidence,” she said. “We want our kids to have their shining moment.”