Through their artistry and passion, members of Northside Prep’s Black Student Union led their entire school community in a dramatic celebration of Black History Month.
The performance of spoken word poetry included both famous and original works, all of which were accompanied by movement, light changes and sound effects.
“It gave me chills,” said Northside principal Kelly Mest. “It started with negative images and stories of hardship, then just kept building and building toward this optimistic view of the future. It was a powerful experience.”
The performance was created by Northside’s Black Student Union – a group of African-American students who meet regularly to explore their shared history and culture. They began planning for the event last fall, researching poems that mirrored their experiences and writing original pieces to represent what goes on in their lives and communities.
“We looked at a lot of pieces, then narrowed it down to the ones that best represented their voice and the way they see themselves in the world,” said Yvonne Smith, faculty sponsor for the BSU. “The challenge then was to decide on an order for the program.”
The students agreed that they wanted to be honest about their experiences while also conveying how positive they feel about the next steps in their journey. In that spirit, the early part of the program addressed difficult issues such as poverty and violence, then climbed steadily upward through tolerance and equality to end on a note of excitement about the future.
“They did a fabulous job,” said Smith. “The content was excellent, and the reactions they got from students and staff were all very positive. It was clear to everyone that they were hearing the students’ authentic voices.”
For the student performers – mainly seniors – this was an opportunity not only to celebrate Black History Month, but to breakdown stereotypes among their classmates and help them better understand the perspective of African-American students.
“A performance like this helps our student body see that not all areas of the city are alike,” said Smith. “And for the students who perform, there is a special bond that forms, building their confidence and making them feel like they are really a part of things.”
Performances like this have been a part of Black History Month at Northside for nearly a decade – a tradition that helps unite the students as one shared community.
“It’s part of what we call The Northside Way,” said Principal Mest. “We all bring unique experiences to the group, but no one is isolated and we are all responsible for one another.”