By Alice Ramos
Jordyn Curtis said, “Black history is American history.” Curtis’ remarks followed performances by Isabelle Cowley and the Urbana High School (UHS) Concert Choir on Feb. 15. Her words about cherishing history as a whole and looking at the passage of time through the eyes of minorities as well as the majority gave those assembled in the UHS auditorium a better understanding of what people have had to endure. The 2nd Annual Community Black History Program gave Urbana the opportunity to hear stories and music reflecting a part of our own history.
Marcus Allen, UHS assistant principal, planned the program with the Heritage Club. Their goal was to “inspire people throughout Urbana High School to internalize positive lessons from the past in order to do something distinctive and helpful in the present,” explained Allen.
To accomplish this, the 12 students in the Heritage Club researched black history. They discovered the many gifts African Americans have shared with America and the rest of the world, hence the name of the performance: “A People’s Gift: Monologues, Songs, and Speeches.” Their afterschool research also informed a Feb. 13 presentation in the UHS media center where club members sang, played instruments and read poems by historic figures.
Step Team Captain Jasmyn Caffey joined the Heritage Club as soon as it was created because she wanted “to learn more about my black history and really connect with (it) while stepping and performing,” she said. After participating in last year’s event, “Great Blacks in Wax: A Living History Museum,” where the club took the role of influential people in history around the school’s library, she noted, “The Heritage Club feels like my second family, people I could always count on to be there for me when I’m just having a bad day. I know I can always go to Mr. Allen about anything.” The strong bond created between Heritage Club members helped them plan spirit week for February, travel to different FCPS schools and positively impact students, and get all of the groups together for the UHS community program.
“A People’s Gift” showcased a series of performances, not only from the UHS advanced acting class, concert choir, dance company, jazz band and step team, but from many groups in the Frederick community who wanted to participate. Hood College professors and students performed significant lines from African American literature and explained the meaning of black history at the beginning of the event. Hands of Love, a sign language interpreter, performed “Glory” with white paint on her face. The symbolism of the white paint along with the beautiful lyrics resulted in a powerful performance. The gospel group, Heaven Smiles, sang two catchy songs that energized many to dance in their seats.
Allen plans to expose more students to different heritages. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what ethnic background, we want you to represent your heritage,” he said. The idea of a women’s history month celebration and partnering up with the National Spanish Honor Society to have a Hispanic heritage month have been discussed.
As history continues to make itself in the present, it is important to look back and appreciate the people who have made the world better and learn from the mistakes of those who have made it worse. Caffey said she hopes “that this event not only grabs your attention but motivates you to keep it going.”
This year’s performances and presentations not only educated the audience, but also uplifted and celebrated the musical, literary and dance culture of African Americans, Allen suggested. Moving forward, it is important to remember that black history, women’s history, Latino history—any type of history—is our human history.