HORSHAM — To honor Black History Month throughout February, Hatboro-Horsham School District celebrated African-American history through music, literature, interactive lessons, presentations and more.
Black History Month Choral Experience – HHHS
Hatboro-Horsham High School held its second annual Black History Month Choral Experience on February 16 at 7 pm
“The reaction to last year’s performance was overwhelmingly positive from students, families, and the community, and we are excited to share a celebration in song this year in person,” said Director of Choral Activities Alison Lagan.
The high school’s three choirs: the Concert Choir, Madrigals and Women’s Chamber, returned to an in-person performance this year. The concert featured three genres: traditional African-American spiritual, which is deeply rooted in Black and American culture; traditional world African music originating from Africa; and non-idiomatic works, meaning that it is not tied to a specific cultural genre.
A special feature of the concert was an original commission from world-renowned composer and Vice Dean of Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance Dr. Rollo Dilworth and text by the district’s first grade teacher Willeena Booker. This was made possible through a grant Lagan received from the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation (HHEF) to request a composer to commission an exclusive piece to the district.
First, Booker started with a poem and transformed it into the lyrics for “One Voice” to be set to music. “Writing the piece was powerful and purposeful as I tried to keep the theme of community building in mind throughout the writing process,” she said. “I embraced Blackness, love, healing, social justice and oneness in community as I wrote the lyrics.”
The lyrics were submitted to Dr. Dilworth who wrote music centered around Booker’s lyrics. Dr. Dilworth also visited the high school on February 4 to hold a clinic for the choirs and offer advice in preparation for the performance.
Similar to last year, the three choirs performed two songs that are iconic to the civil rights movement. They opened with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the “African American National Anthem” and closed with “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Black History Museum – HHHS
At Hatboro-Horsham High School, the Black Student Union (BSU) organized a Black History Museum on February 24. Visitors walked through the ‘museum’ and viewed visual displays highlighting the contributions of black Americans throughout US history as well as got a taste of cultural cuisine, music genres and fashion.
“We want people in our community to understand what black people have been through, who we are, where we come from and how past experiences affect us today. With that being said, opening the door for more authentic conversations about modern-day issues” said BSU Advisor Kevin Garland.
Music playlists, book club and speeches – KVMS
At Keith Valley Middle School, music teachers created a “What’s on Your Playlist?” bulletin board to highlight black musicians. The display included each musician’s photograph, short biography and a QR code that linked to one of their songs.
In students’ music classes, they interacted with the display by choosing three musicians from the bulletin board to learn about. Then they created their own playlist of black musicians and chose other composers.
The Keith Valley Library held a special book club for each grade with the theme “Honoring Black History.” Students chose any biography of a Black American that they wanted to learn more about, read the biography and shared what they learned at the meeting.
Additionally, in seventh grade social studies, students analyzed influential speeches by African American men and women throughout history, and used them as inspiration in the writing and delivery of their own speeches.
Poets and Authors of Color – Blair Mill Elementary School
Fourth grade students at Blair Mill Elementary School explored poetry written by poets of color. Students chose a poem that they relate to and provokes feeling. During the poetry study, they learned about the poet’s biography and applied their knowledge to analyze the poem to understand its meaning. At the conclusion of Black History Month, students participated in a poetry reading to share what they learned and read their poems aloud.
Blair Mill Elementary School is participating in the National African American Read-In (AARI), a groundbreaking effort to encourage communities to read together, centering African American books and authors. Established in 1990 by the National Council of Teachers of English, this initiative has reached more than 6 million participants around the world.
Past, Present and Future Display – Crooked Billet Elementary
At Crooked Billet Elementary School, the whole school took part to create the “Celebrating Black History Month” interactive display in the rotunda. The panels, dedicated to the past, present and future, were an idea that the members of Crooked Billet’s equity cadre created. All month long, any student or classroom added pictures, quotes, or pieces of writing to any of the three collages.
“This is student-centered and gives all classes a chance to add something to one of the panels,” said Crooked Billet Principal Kelli Sendel.
Teachers conducted individual activities in their classrooms focusing on Black History Month including reading, writing biographies and reading literature. Past and present famous Black Americans were displayed on digital display boards throughout the school. Finally, the school showcased Black History Month on its video morning announcements.
Jazz Presentation and Author Visit – Hallowell Elementary School
Kendrah Butler, third grade teacher and professional jazz musician, presented a jazz presentation to Hallowell Elementary School on February 17. The assembly focused on the progression of jazz, or black classical music, and its relation to the music students enjoy today such as pop and hip hop. Jazz music and hip-hop breakdancing were incorporated.
Joining Butler, who was on keys and vocals, was world-renowned breakdancer/emcee Raphael Xavier, drummer Kimpedro Rodriguez, bassist Nimrod Speaks and trumpet player Marcell Bellinger.
“I hope students are able to learn more about the contributions of African-American composers, musicians and the history of the creation of jazz, and how without it, we would not have any of the other genres of music that have been off-shoots. of this particular genre,” said Butler. “With being a professional jazz musician myself, I just want the students to grow a love for jazz or at least spark their interest and understanding of seeing the cultural roots of the music they currently enjoy.”
Hallowell Elementary School also had a virtual author visit from Charles R. Smith Jr. on February 8 for K-2 students. This was the district’s second time welcoming Smith, an award-winning author, poet and photographer, in honor of Black History Month.
National African-American Read-In – Simmons Elementary School
Established in 1990, the National African-American Read-In (AARI) takes place annually during Black History Month and is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. The event, which Simmons Elementary School has been participating in since 2019, centers on African-American authors and encourages communities to experience the texts together.
At Simmons, older classes partnered with younger classes to read books together by black authors. Some examples include “Duke Ellington” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez; and “Hair Love” by Matthew A Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison.
As Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott, the founder of the AARI once said, “It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books.”
When children read a book with characters who look like them, it allows them to identify with those characters and connect to the book on a deeper level.