This year’s student-led Black History Month celebration was full of colorful dress, lively music and enthusiastic performers. Joining us for the event were the new Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who talked about local historic African American women, and the new Director of the Mayor’s Office of African Affairs, Mamadou Samba, originally from Senegal.
“Culture and history are important no matter where you come from,” Samba told the crowd of more than 400 students.
A highlight of this year’s show was an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which included a fashion display and traditional dance performance during which one Ethiopian student ran up on stage and wowed the crowd with his sharp dance moves. Students also educated the audience with Brazilian samba and Afro-Cuban dance performances, as well as a reenactment of the famous bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama by Rosa Parks. Following a video display of Moroccan culture and Moroccan dancing, the School’s men’s choir, comprised of teachers and school leaders, led the crowd in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
This celebration tops off a month full of educational activities around African, Afro-Latino and African American cultures. Students participated in additional interactive classroom workshops on topics such as Afro Cuban dance, hand dancing and blues music.
“These Black History Month events present a great opportunity for our students to share with each other their cultural heritage and traditions and to educate all on important moments in history,” said Allison Kokkoros, Executive Director/CEO.
Students Adenike Adeliyi, from Nigeria, and Mohammed Mohammed, from Tanzania, emceed the event. Both are in ESL level 3, a beginning level English class, after having progressed through four ESL classes starting in beginning literacy.
Mohammed, who has been in the U.S. for almost three years, was an electrician and tour guide on the island of Zanzibar and today wishes to become an electrical engineer. He is a proud father who lives in Columbia Heights with his wife. Of the event Mohammed said, “I like to help with these events because it’s another chance to improve my English… This school has helped me so much, I want to pay it back.”
Adenike is a passionate and talented designer who learned to design and sew clothing decades before she even learned to read thanks to literacy classes at the Carlos Rosario School. Her clothing designs were on display throughout the month. During the performance, Adenike took a moment to thank school founder Sonia Gutierrez saying when she first arrived at the school she didn’t even know how to write her own name.