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Celebrating Black History Month at Diggs-Latham Elementary

For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.

Diggs 99 By Amanda Gordon

Art Teacher and Magnet Coordinator

Diggs-Latham Elementary

FEBRUARY 25, 2021 – Funga Alafia, Ashay Ashay – “ We Welcome You.”  

Staff and students at Diggs-Latham Elementary School look forward to their annual Black History Month celebration held each February. 

“I have served as the chair for the Black History Committee for at least 11-12 years now,” said Amanda Gordon, the Art Teacher and Magnet Coordinator at Diggs-Latham Elementary.

“It is my pleasure to celebrate freedom and help promote unity in order to help change our present and future in hopes of avoiding repeating the dark truths of past racism.”

As the audience logged into our virtual event, a slideshow of photos reminded us of past moments in Black History as our assembly celebration has become a loved and honored tradition at our school. To see them, go to Black History Program Photo Memories

Throughout the month, we reflected on accomplishments of African Americans, notable quotes, and remembered historical events.  This last week of February, we designated as “Black History Month Spirit Week.”  Staff, students, and teachers wore the colors of Kwanzaa, black, red, and green, that also reflect colors of Kente Cloth.  On Tuesday, we wore Afrocentric attire in connection with our annual Assembly Celebration, held live on Zoom.

Approximately 300 individuals joined the celebration. Faculty, staff, teachers, students, families, and members of the community met for a time of singing, dancing, spoken word, poetry, drumming, and reflection.  Fifth-graders Diamond Beale and Shawn Bryan served as this year’s Masters of Ceremony, introducing each part of our program. 

Diggs 4 “I felt very special,” Diamond Beale shared, “since not everyone was able to speak. From the program, I learned to follow your dreams, and I feel great about celebrating Black History Month,” Beale stated as she was happy to see African Americans getting noticed for their accomplishments and contributions.  “Shine bright like a Diamond,” she added.

As an introduction to poetry, we honored Mrs. Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina’s ninth Poet Laureate and first African American Poet Laureate, by sharing a pre-recorded poem she wrote entitled “The Grandmother One Had Hands.”

Then, Shawn recited the spoken word piece, “The Struggle,” written by Mrs. Gordon.  After each line, Shawn transitioned with a dramatic “NOW,” and the audience recited together, “We March On.”  “We Look Back and Remember….NOW…We March On…”

The member of the Arts Team had significant roles in our Assembly Celebration. 

Mr. Rick Sigler, our Band and Music Teacher, led students in an exercise with a Djembe, a traditional West African Drum, and asked students to use their hands and laps to keep a steady beat.

Mrs. Lisa Morris, our Orchestra Teacher, led the audience in singing, “Funga Alafia,” a traditional welcome song. 

Dance teacher, Mrs. Amanda Nelson, walked the audience through “Lamba Dance,” West African Foot Dance often used for celebrating or honoring important times and people.

Special guests this year included retired Speech/Language Pathologist, Mrs. Susan Ingram, our Keynote Speaker, Miss JeLisa Smallwood, and President of the Winston-Salem State University Beta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Mr. Denzel Hanes.

Diggs 22 Mrs. Ingram sang live on the virtual meeting, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Mr. Hanes pre-recorded a Black History Message to the students and introduced a recorded Step Team performance by his fraternity.

Mr. Hanes is a senior at Winston-Salem State University and a graduate of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. 

Miss Smallwood – the founder and owner of the local businesses Highly Yogivated and Smallwood’s Bookkeeping and Taxes – is a graduate of Berea College and of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. She shared a message with students that encouraged them to set high goals, work hard to achieve them, not let anyone discourage them, and overcome any obstacle to achieve success.

Our Black History Month Assembly Celebration was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Vic Johnson.  We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Mr. Johnson but honored him with a moment of silence.

It was our pleasure to remember the 61st anniversary of the day Mr. Johnson joined the Sit-In Movement at the downtown Winston-Salem Kress Lunch Counter on February 23, 1960. Not only did Mr. Johnson have a successful career teaching and serving as a principal, but, in his capacity as a School Board Member, he became a big part of our Black History Program.

Around 2015-2016, Mr. Johnson met with our Black History Coordinator, Mrs. Gordon, and shared newspaper articles, a timeline of the Sit-In History, and photos.  He also attended a “Read In” event honoring the Sit-In Movement with fellow Sit-In Member, Mr. Larry Womble and spoke to small groups of students.  During this visit, Mr. Johnson made connections with some of our 4th and 5th graders and was known for giving them a few dollars or coins for good grades.

You will find a Photo Video Honoring him at Mr. Vic Johnson

Principal Cassandra Dobson shared that it was her pleasure to participate in the Black History Assembly and Black History Month festivities.  “I am very proud of the staff and students for their contributions, messages, and performances.” 

Throughout the virtual event, the audience of staff, students, families and community members were singing, dancing, and watching together.

Diggs 88 As the 2021 Black History Month comes to a close, we want our students to think: “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine” as they grow into productive adults and citizens of a diverse world.

We also hope that they will embrace the truth that we are all “Free, Free at Last” and use their freedom to work hard in promoting equality and unity and honor those who came before us when the path was much harder.