Children celebrate Black History Month at Ile Omode Elementary

on March 4, 2013

Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and a number of famous African Americans ancestors made an appearance at an elementary school in East Oakland on the final day of Black History Month.

Ancestor Day 2013 at Ile Omode, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school in East Oakland, consisted of four and five year-old students dressing up as notable historical figures and delivering their most memorable quotes to a room full of parents and teachers.

The audience cheered as students dressed as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm and a clock-toting Benjamin Banneker recited lines. The celebration included the pouring of water into a plant as an offering of libations, the playing of drums, and a singing of the Negro National Anthem.

“My favorite part is the parents—when they dress em’ up. That’s a major thing, not so much their lines,” says preschool teacher Kusum Deskins, whose children also attended Ile Omode. “When the parents put in their input and they have them dress them up like their ancestors, it blows you away.”

The students not only dressed the part, they also had accessories: a feathered hat for Marcus Garvey and a Brooklyn Dodgers hat, shirt, and baseball bat for Jackie Robinson.

Deskins says the children’s script was a product of a quick internet query. She searched for the most notable quotes from each of the individual ancestors and asked the students to commit them to memory.

“We started like a week into February,” Deskins says, expressing her concern about the students ability to memorize their part with such short notice. She says the class proved that she had nothing to be concerned about, especially a young man who was set to play the role of Frederick Douglass. “He said watch me,” Deskins says, imitating the child’s excitement. “I can do this! I can do this!”

Little Frederick Douglass remembered and delivered his script without a hitch. Although he did have trouble keeping his wig on his head.

As he approached the microphone stand—which was tilted down in order to properly amplify the young orator—he cleared his voice and then delivered his message to the room, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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