By: Zoe Jones, 2016-2017 AmeriCorps member, Mound STEM school

Mound STEM school celebrated Black History Month with their “Black History Month Showcase” on Friday, February 24th. The school assembly was a partnership of performances from the school’s music department and the City Year after-school program, Hip Hop Academy (HHA). Over the past two months, AmeriCorps members have been working with middle school students in the Hip Hop Academy to create material to share with the student body that highlights Black History Month in a variety of ways. Students were pushed to have conversations about Black History Month, research historical figures, and memorize and perform a step routine.

The program opened with a short video of Hip Hop Academy students sitting down with teachers and City Year AmeriCorps members to discuss what black history means to them and what inspires them. The chance to connect with their educators outside of the classroom was a small moment for these students to experience the City Year value of Ubuntu. Ubuntu embraces the idea that one person’s humanity is tied to another's, and discussions and celebrations of Black History month like this one between students and teachers truly embrace that value.

The showcase also included musical performances by the 4th & 5th grade choir and the Mound STEM drum line. The lively, upbeat performances had people students, staff, and parents clapping and singing along. It was a powerful way to celebrate Black History Month as a community.

To break up each performance, members of the Hip Hop Academy read short biographies of African-American figures that they had written and researched, including bios on Malcolm X and Cleveland native Jesse Owens. One HHA student also shared his poem “Black Lives Matter” that was well received by the audience. By sharing these biographies that highlighted the achievements of these figures students sought to educate and inspire their fellow classmates.

The performance ended with HHA students performing a step routine that they had been preparing for since before the start of winter break. Students were joined by members of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity from The University of Toledo during their step performance. Members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, including a member from Cleveland State, and a current City Year AmeriCorps member from the Baldwin Wallace chapter, spoke about the history and background of stepping in fraternities before performing as well. Not only entertaining, the performances highlighted one of the many opportunities students can take advantage of in college.

City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps members from multiple school sites attended the assembly to show support for the students and their fellow AmeriCorps members. The Black History Month Showcase was an opportunity for us to come together as a community and celebrate those who fought for equal rights and social justice, while also celebrating the hard work of our students.

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