African-American stories, dance and songs filled the auditorium at Bishop Noll during two assemblies organized by students to honor Black History Month.
Organizer Christian Williams, a BNI senior from Hammond, wanted to expand Noll’s Black History Month offerings and asked Noll Principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick if the students could put together something of their own. Jara Pastrick supported them all the way, Williams said. Along with classmates, she organized assemblies featuring skits, poetry, spirituals, slavery songs and African-American art.
“We collectively came up with the most important things in African-American culture that we wanted to share with our teachers and peers,” Williams said.
Sophomore Ameer Lawrence, of Chicago, said his role was to educate and set the tone for the process.
“I was the emcee, so I had to know my facts, get people engaged, and get my timing and cues right. My favorite part of the entire project was being able to work with a very talented and hard working group of people that I am really good friends with.”
Lawrence hopes the assembly educated everyone about African-American history and gave attendees a better understanding of how much African-American people contributed to the world.
Chandler Leavell, a BNI sophomore from Gary, played a large part behind the scenes, writing skits, planning wardrobe and choreographing dances. She also portrayed Harriet Tubman in the first assembly and recited a poem in the second. Her culture is important to her, she said.
"Choreographing the dances was my favorite part of working on the project because I have a passion for dance, which a lot of people don't know about me, and being able to express myself while educating about my culture was an honor and a privilege that I will never take for granted,” Leavell said.
She hopes classmates and teachers grasped all they presented.
“I'm thankful for the people who took what was portrayed seriously and tried their best to understand what was going on. I'm also thankful for the people who were really engaged and the excitement of the interaction between the audience and performers. I'm not even sure that our pep rallies were that fun.”
Leavell said everyone deserves respect and people are often disrespected because they are misunderstood.
“We took the opportunity to help people understand the African-American history and why it is important.”
She plans to be part of future Black History Month programs and hopes more students get involved each year.