James Clemens departments paying tribute during Black History Month

A James Clemens sax quartet plays a chart by an African-American composer during the first week of Black History Month. (CONTRIBUTED)

Famous speeches, music and milestones by African-Americans highlighted the first week of Black History Month at James Clemens High School.

“James Clemens is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of notable African-Americans, remembering the turbulent past, fostering conversations … to issues affecting the African-American community and honoring the tradition” of Black History Month, established in 1975, math teacher Walter Ruffin IV said.

All history teachers contributed to the week’s activities. Patricia Beale, ninth- and tenth-grade English teacher, is chairing the Black History Committee. Ruffin, a committee member, announces history facts daily by intercom.

Ruffin has featured Carter G. Woodson, “creator of the first Negro History Week that evolved to Black History Month.” Ratification of the 24th amendment abolishing poll tax was another subject.

“Willis Johnson was inventor of the egg beater/hand mixer. Bob Marley is a world renowned singer and activist who emerged from a Third World nation to inspire and entertain,” Ruffin said. Another highlight was Eubie Blake, pianist and composer who created one of the first Broadway musicals that African-Americans wrote, performed in and directed.

History teachers highlighted Dorothy Dandridge and Halle Berry’s careers. “Our rubric was based on one person paving the way for a future generation,” history department chairperson Patrice O’Donnell said. History teachers created slide shows, performed skits and gave famous speeches, like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” and Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow Coalition”.

“These events and people represent the diversity and influence of African-Americans of different generations gone by and allow us to reaffirm and inform a new generation of their continued impact and relevance,” O’Donnell said.

James Clemens students are assisting with lunch presentations and performing music composed by African-American artists, like “Sweet Georgia Brown.” “One group re-enacted Rosa Parks’ refusing to give up her seat on the bus,” O’Donnell said.

Students also identified researched and created presentations about black history that focused on historic, scientific and journalistic relevance.

On Feb. 22, the world-acclaimed Aeolians from Oakwood University will perform at a James Clemens general assembly during fourth block.

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