Friday, March 5, 2021
Milwaukee Public Schools students and staff celebrated Black History Month with a wide range of creative and thought-provoking events. In addition to learning about significant Black figures in American history, a number of activities were designed for students and the community to engage in important discussions about current movements toward racial equity.
Please enjoy this sampling of activities in MPS schools!
Third graders at Bryant Elementary were visited virtually by Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s first Black lieutenant governor. Barnes spoke about the importance of school and excellent attendance, shared his journey into politics, and answered questions from students.
Samuel Clemens Elementary School hosted a virtual Black History Family Bingo Night. The evening was attended by many participants, and students and families learned about the countless contributions of Black Americans, past and present.
At Benjamin Franklin School, Elizabeth Fisher’s special education class wove Kente cloths in the traditional colors of red, yellow, black and green. Students also learned the history of the woven cloth, which comes from Ghana, as well as traditions and qualities of this artform and the fables and legends in its background.
Students at Forest Home Avenue School designed and implemented a virtual Black History Museum. Posted on the Google platform, the museum features profiles of more than 50 Black Americans who are noteworthy in the fields of science, math, education, government, sports, performing arts, music, film, and more.
At Hawthorne Elementary School, student spent the month learning about Black history and held a culminating virtual program to share their work. First graders completed a biography project about Black leaders, legends, and heroes, then shared their discoveries schoolwide during the virtual program.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School offered programs throughout February to engage students all month long. Kindergarten students and families cruised the Caribbean with Wolf Trap Theater and the entire school got to Stomp the Yard. Local chapters of Black fraternities and sororities shared the importance of these organizations in the black community. The month culminated in the African-American Male and Female Teach-In and a Black Through the Decades event highlighting the positive influences of Black culture from the 1920s to the present.
At Lincoln Avenue Community School, Milwaukee Alderman and Council President Cavalier Johnson visited virtually for an all-school assembly. Johnson is a 2005 graduate of Bay View High School and a proud former Lincoln Eagle. He shared the story of his life as an African-American male growing up in Milwaukee, the teachers who inspired him to follow a path into politics, and the impact his experiences in MPS had on his desire to give and lead in his Milwaukee community.
Vocal students at Milwaukee High School of the Arts met virtually with composer Alysia Lee to discuss her transformational song, “Say Her Name.” Lee shared stories of how her family traditions, specifically Kwanzaa, inspired her to compose the song. Calling out the names of loved ones who have passed led to the idea of calling out the names of Black victims of police brutality. Lee challenged students to share their ideas of what the symbolic gestures in the song represented, such as blowing the breath in the palm of the hand. She was moved by the wide variety of images the students shared and encouraged them to continue to embrace music and song as a vehicle for social justice. A performance of the song by MHSA vocalists is posted on YouTube, and MHSA received an inspiring video message from Professor Lee thanking the students for their powerful performance.
Pulaski High School held five events throughout the month that included panel discussions with African-American entrepreneurs, including MPS alumni, and showings of the movies Hidden Figures, Spiderman, The Hate You Give, and Pursuit of Happyness. Students had the chance to discuss Black stereotypes, accomplishments of Black Americans, and obstacles overcome by the movies’ protagonists.
Two students from Reagan High School, freshman Zion Yeboa and sophomore Mason Richards, were part of the winning team in the annual Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Black History Quiz Bowl sponsored by Milwaukee’s chapter of Gamma Pi Sigma. Along with two other students, Zion and Mason prepared for more than a month, developing extensive knowledge of the achievements of African Americans in the fields of art, entertainment, business, education, science, history, politics, military, and sports. Congratulations!