Children channel famous figures

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Students at Barnes Elementary School have a widened appreciation for the contributions of African-Americans after dressing up as and giving presentations of their favorite figure as part of Black History Month.

“This is a tradition for them. They have been doing it for years,” said Sylvia Mizzelle, principal. “It’s always good to celebrate all cultures. They pick famous African-Americans in the community and also famous African-Americans around the United States. They use their Chromebooks and research them and then do a museum. They all went to the multi-purpose room, and they dressed up as their characters. The other grade levels came in, and they could just walk up to them and ask about who they were. Fourth and fifth grade did it.”

Fifth-grade teacher Chevon Cherry said it’s very important for the students to know their history besides the same African-Americans who have been talked about year after year, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

“There are more people in black American history that have made an impact on our society,” Cherry said. “We let them pick three, and between fourth and fifth grade we tried not to overlap because we wanted them to know that there is a plethora of black Americans that have contributed to our history. They have learned about so many people. They found out about black inventors, poets, writers, civil rights activists. It’s very important that they know that.”

Louis Betancourt wrote about Dan Barksdale, who was the first African-American to play on a U.S. Olympic basketball team.

“Dan Barksdale would never give up,” Louis wrote. “He would just try again.”

Dyemond Mangum wrote about women’s rights worker Dorothy Heights.

“Dorothy made African-American women’s rights change,” Dyemond wrote. “She organized the I Have A Dream speech on Washington.”

Ke’Aziah Whatley wrote about Dr. Alexa Canady, who was the first African-American woman to become a neurosurgeon.

“I admire Dr. Canady because not only was she he first African-American female neurosurgeon,” Ke’Aziah wrote. “She changed the face of medicine.”

Ashley Hernandez-Cortez learned about the ground-breaking efforts of Ruby Bridges.

“Ruby was a hero because she didn’t need help making African-Americans go to a white school,” Ashley wrote. “Everyone is able to go to any school because of Ruby Bridges. Ruby Bridges was age 6, the youngest of a group of African-American students to integrate school in the American South.”

“It’s important to recognize the great African-Americans who have done great things in our country over the years,” Cherry said.

Fourth-grade teacher Jumela Bullock brought the idea to the school.

“I knew Black History Month was important to us. I saw an example on Facebook, and I took that idea and ran with it,” Bullock said, adding it was important to include local figures.

“Calvin Woodard was our first black sheriff of Wilson County, so we wanted to make sure we hit home with people we knew about,” Bullock said. “Our student Trenton Johnson was able to interview Calvin Woodard personally so he was able to meet him and learn more about him.”

About 40 students were required to know at least five facts about each figure in history they were portraying. They were asked to memorize the facts so they could answer questions.

“They actually enjoyed doing it,” Bullock said.