HISD celebrates Black History Month with famous guests, stellar performances

From Rosa Parks’ niece to Kashmere High School’s ThunderSOUL Orchestra, students across the district are getting a double dose of history, as schools present a wide variety of programs in honor of Black History Month. February was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

“The entire school gets involved in the black history wax museum,” said Lockhart Elementary School teacher Kim Mayo. “Every grade has scenes to recreate, and the students dress up as figures from black history.” A wax museum usually consists of a collection of wax sculptures of famous people wearing real clothes, but schools have picked up on the idea, substituting students for the sculptures. At Lockhart, for example, the students dress up as figures from black history and “freeze” when visitors enter the room.

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Lockhart students lead tours around the school and into various classrooms that have been transformed into historical vignettes. The “museum” begins with early scenes in Africa, passage to America in slave ships, and slave auctions in the new world. The Jim Crow period and Martin Luther King Jr. era are represented, as well as scenes and characters from today and even the future. Tours take place at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28.

The Conrad O. Johnson School of Music and Fine Arts at Kashmere Senior High is screening the documentary “ThunderSOUL” at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21. “We are really looking forward to seeing the movie,” said Kashmere principal Amber Williams. “ThunderSOUL” is a full-length documentary honoring the high school’s legendary music instructor, the late Conrad O. Johnson, who turned a struggling high school jazz band into a world-class powerhouse in the 1970s.

The movie will be followed by the school’s ThunderSOUL Orchestra in concert. “The orchestra always puts on a great show,” Williams added.

Here are a few highlights of past and upcoming events around the district:

  • Daily Elementary School had a visit from Urana McCauley, Rosa Parks’ niece, who spoke to students about her aunt’s accomplishments and shared personal stories about growing up with Parks. After her aunt moved from Alabama to Michigan, she basically raised McCauley.
  • Lyons Elementary’s Black History production showcased their choir singing “We Shall Overcome” followed by a style show, mime presentation, and dance performance.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Early Childhood Center presented “Standing in the Hall of Fame,” which presented students dressed as Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Stevie Wonder, and many others well-known African Americans.
  • Shadowbriar Elementary School’s National Elementary Honor Society researched 20 influential African Americans and created posters that are displayed throughout the school.
  • Wesley Elementary School invited community members from Acres Homes to a lunch where they shared personal stories and the history of the area. Young Audiences of Houston presented the play “Sister Rosa Parks.”
  • Neff Elementary School learned about African American heroes from the past and present during their “Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act,” which featured Neff’s choir, musicians, drama students, dancers, and visual artists.
  • Burbank Middle School is presenting a program on the 1960 Greensboro, N. C., sit-ins that began when four African American college students sat down at a whites-only lunch counter inside Woolworth’s. The protest spread across the south and a week later, there were 54 sit-ins in 15 cities.
  • High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is presenting the students’ production of “Dreamgirls” through Sunday, Feb. 23.
  • Gregg Elementary School is hosting Bubba Thomas and his jazz quartet on Tuesday, Feb. 25. They will present an interactive jazz and poetry program.
  • MacGregor Elementary School’s program includes a presentation by FOX 26 reporter Damali Keith, a Freedom March, tribute to Nelson Mandela, “I Have a Dream” ballet, and a “Moments in Time” fashion show.
  • Forest Brook Middle School will have a black history production involving their step team, cheerleaders, and dancers on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
  • Herrera Elementary School fourth-graders created a wax museum of important African Americans for students in other grades. Check out photos from that event.