During Black History Month, the history and culture of the Caribbean Islands and South America are usually left forgotten.
Englewood on the Palisades Charter School, however, celebrated these regions by hosting a presentation called "History of Migration Part 2: Journey to the Caribbean and South America" on Feb. 28. "Looking back throughout history, we know that Central America, South America, and the Caribbean have been heavily populated by Africans," said Janine Ellis, a teacher at the school and one of the organizers of the assembly. "We see that African or black influence in culture is transcendent throughout the world."
Students wore colorful masks, danced, and sang along to traditional Caribbean songs during the assembly, with each grade presenting information they learned about their chosen country.
The charter school wanted to highlight these various island nations to allow students to connect with their own background, as there is much diversity found between students in the school, said Ellis.
"We kind of surveyed what our population is and tried to choose some countries that they would be able to identify with as well," said Ellis.
First-graders clad in straw hats snapped their fingers during a rendition of "Don’t Worry, Be Happy," to celebrate Jamaican culture, while third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders sang a set of different Caribbean songs, including an a capella version of the traditional West Indies song "A Few White Horses."
Students from Ms. Clark’s class paraded around the auditorium in purple masks and noise makers to bring a festive atmosphere to their Barbados presentation, while Mrs. Monsanto’s kindergarten class wore red, black, and white to match the Trinidad flag as they told the audience what made the country a multicultural melting pot.
The students were coached through the traditional songs by the school’s new music teacher, Lauren DeLago.
She was proud of how articulate and fearless the students were as they took the stage to sing. The children who sang in the third through fifth grade group were volunteers from a newly formed choir in the school, with the assembly marking their first public performance.
"I think they did a great job," said DeLago.
The auditorium was packed with parents and guardians, who frequently called out words of support to their children.
Anthony Barckett, the director of the charter school, was grateful of the large parent turnout for the event. "One of the biggest complaints that most administrators and teachers have is lack of parental participation," said Barckett. "Here, we have a full house every time we have a program."
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