Shared History Fuels Student Pride 

Sullivan High School students use words, dance, and music to celebrate their common heritage

February 27, 2013

Earlier this week, students from Sullivan High School presented a dynamic performance that communicated the beauty and depth of African-American history while clearly conveying the pride they feel in their heritage.


“It was the best Black History Month celebration we’ve had for a long time,” said Assistant Principal Bryan Quinlan of the all-school assembly. “It was an awesome demonstration of our school community coming together to celebrate its common history.”


Located in Rogers Park, Sullivan has 39 languages represented in its enrollment of 741, most from countries within Africa. Its Black History Month celebration was a collaboration between student organizations and the schools Parent Advisory Council, and included song, dance, and spoken word. The performance was anchored by Sullivan’s African Kings and Queens dance troupe, who performed their routines in authentic African dress.


“These groups performed several ethnic dances, including an interpretive dance by two brothers, wherein one played an elderly African-American man teaching his son how to dance and honor their history,” said Quinlan. “These two brothers also performed a piano duet as part of the celebration.”


The theme for the event was Crossroads of Freedom and Equality. It opened with the singing of the Black National Anthem, followed by a performance from Maggie Brown, daughter of civil rights leader Oscar Brown. Her musical narrative of African-American history included traditional African instruments and conveyed messages of hope, knowledge and perseverance.


“She was one of the best ‘edutainers’ I’ve ever seen,” said Bryan Quinlan. “Her performance was powerful and had plenty of teachable moments.”


Other performers included dancers from the Columbia College After School Program—a series of classes that give Sullivan students the opportunity to explore artistic areas like cartoon animation, hip-hop dance, and creative writing—and readings by Sullivan’s Louder Than A Bomb slam poetry team, with student poets focusing on many of the issues facing urban communities today while also making note of the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.


“Strong schools are built on strong communities, and our diversity is part of what makes us strong,” said Bryan Quinlan. “As always, we were pleased and proud to celebrate that diversity during Black History Month.”