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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
MARCH 1, 2017 – For the Black History Celebration at Diggs-Latham Elementary, fifth-grader Chris Islar served as master of ceremonies.
“I’m kind of scared but I’m also happy,” Chris said as students were coming into the auditorium on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m excited and proud, and he knows it,” said his mother, Terrisha.
She was sitting in the front row along with such guests as instructional superintendents Donna Cannon and Amy Nail, and Stoney Crosby, an elder at Sovereign Grace Chapel who was going to give the keynote address.
Once everything was underway, Chris did a masterful job of introducing everyone.
Amanda Gordon, the art teacher who has been overseeing the annual celebration for the past seven years, opened the program by saying, “Today, we celebrate freedom for all – we promote diversity.”
After Susan Ingram sang the African-American hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and Stephen McCloud recited an excerpt from the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., the fourth- and fifth-grade members of the Honors Band, under the direction of band teacher Rick Sigler, took to the stage. They performed a song from Liberia.
When it was time for Wayne Jones, the director of the Greater Vision Dance Co., to go up on the stage, he offered students the opportunity to become performers by inviting 10 or so students to join him for a South African dance.
Far too many hands shot up to accommodate everyone so Gordon and dance teacher Amanda Nelson and other teachers picked out students. Once the students were there, Jones taught them the moves and then everyone danced together.
When it was time for Crosby to speak, he opened his remarks by talking about the three African-American women – Mary Jackson, Katherine G. Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan – who worked behind the scenes at NASA helping to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Their story has gotten more attention since the movie Hidden Figures, which celebrates their contributions, came out in December.
From there, Crosby focused on the importance of believing in yourself and of finding the path that is right for you.
“Let no one tell you you cannot achieve your goals,” Crosby said. “Each and every one of you can make history in your own way.”
After everyone was invited to “This Little Light of Mine,” the fourth- and fifth-graders in the Dance Honors group, under the direction of Nelson, performed.
McCloud returned to the stage to recite the conclusion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Sidney Salazar was one of the parents who attended. He was there, he said, because his first-grade daughter Juniper invited him.
And why did she want her dad there?
“Because I love him,” Juniper said.
The other members of The Black History Committee are Siddona Brown, Lisa Morris, Krystal Simmons and Demetras Brown.