Students see dream come true in celebration

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Students at Kennett High School participated in a Black History Month program in celebration of black history and as a tribute to those African Americans who contributed to the history of the nation. The celebration included, songs, skits, a speech, and a performance of an African dance by the KHS stomp team.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that one day his children would live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Kennett High School senior Rahneshia Jennings also had a dream which was similar to that of the famous clergyman and civil-rights leader. Jennings spoke to others within her school and community about her dream and questioned how to make it a reality.

What Jennings said she envisioned was a school-wide and community-wide effort to fully recognize the importance of African Americans in our society, both historically and presently.

Seniors Bridget Pulliam, left, and Rahneisha Jennings, right, initiated the creation of a Black History Month Program within the Kennett School District. The program is scheduled to take place again later in the week for the middle school and South Elementary school students.

Jennings wanted to make a difference within her school by promoting education and appreciation through an informative and fun celebration of Black History which would involve many of her fellow classmates.

"Traditionally our campus has recognized black history by hanging posters around campus which informed students about Black History Month," Jennings said. "No other efforts have been made to truly educate students about black history."

Jennings spoke to one of her best friends and fellow KHS senior, Bridget Pulliam, about her dream and together the two developed a plan to make change, positive change, that they felt had been in the waiting for more than 14 years.

"It has been around 14 years since our school has appropriately recognized black history or allowed a speaker to visit the campus," Pulliam said.

Pulliam assisted the launch of Jennings' dream by approaching the school administration directly by visiting the office of Superintendent Jerry Noble and making her pitch.

What Pulliam proposed to Noble was a creative idea that Jennings had dreamed up and she explained to Noble that they were determined to bring the dream to life.

She asked that the school allow a special black history presentation to be held which would feature a keynote speaker and many acts that would include her fellow African American classmates performing various entertaining and educational acts.

"We wanted to do something that had not been traditionally done in our school, something fun and new that would really bring everyone together for such a good cause," Pulliam said.

Both of the girls believed that by having an actual assembly, in addition to the speaker, all of the students would have the opportunity to truly be involved in the learning process and celebration of the African American culture and heritage.

"It was important to us to do it the way that we felt it should be done so that people our age could really relate, participate and understand the true meaning behind it," Jennings said.

The support of family, church and community allowed the girls the strength to carry out their dreams of impacting their school in such way that years later perhaps the tradition could be carried on, not only during Black History Month but everyday of the year.

Both girls are involved in Passages Tutoring Center and have found inspiration from the director of the program, Mildred Whitehorn.

"Mildred Whitehorn simply lives and breathes black history," said the girls simultaneously.

With Bud 2/15/06 Noble's approval the girls began to put the dream into action by recruiting other students, faculty, community members and parents to assist with the planning, production, and costume design.

"Special thanks goes to Pat Allen and Cristal Jefferson-Smith who coordinated the program and really helped make this happen," Jennings said.

The girls also pointed out that Jefferson-Smith put in a lot of extra work at the last minute by preparing costumes that were used during some of the skits and dance performances.

The Black History Month program was designed to give an understanding of the past, provide examples of living today, and exemplify ways to create a more positive future.

It celebrated black history through song, dance, poetry, comedy and a speech made by Evangelist Nathaniel A. Ellis.

A "Who am I skit" took place that recognized many familiar African Americans of the past and present. Some of the names mentioned included Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughs, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan, Coretta Scott King, Frederick Douglas, Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Denzel Washington, Florence Griffin-Joiner and Carter G. Wilson.

Truly a tribute to Black Americans that contributed to the history of the nation, the students paid respect to the memory of those who have inspired them through their own trials and tribulations.

Pat Allen spoke of the importance of recognizing that it is simply a fact that the African American students at Kennett High School "feel that they have been segregated from the white students within the school."

Allen said that these feelings have increased particularly in the last few years and that the students wish to make change within the school to create a more positive learning environment in which everyone is seen as equal.

In reference to the changes that these young leaders are pushing for, the KHS choir performed an inspirational song titled, "The Storm is Passing Over."

Students also performed a skit about inventions that spawned from African American creativity and re-enacted the infamous Rosa Parks incident in which she was asked to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger and she refused.

Various musical performances took place which featured the voices of the KHS choir, Pulliam, Kenny Johnson, Jordan Shelton and Josh Pemberton.

Ellis was the featured key-note speaker who wrapped up the celebration with a message that brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation.

Ellis, a resident of Caruthersville, told the students that it was important to recognize "Black History" as "Our History", as a triumph over evil. He also talked about the importance of acknowledging the "faith" that African Americans have had through the struggle, the faith and belief of knowing that "no winter lasts forever" and that people must find reasons to succeed and accept that there are no excuses to fail in securing freedom and respect for yourself and others.

His words echoed a message previously spoken by Allen, "you determine your legacy, keep dreaming and continue to reach for those dreams."

Like King, who had a dream for the world and for his four children, Jennings' and Pulliams' parents, Gwendolyn and Lillie, also shared in the dream that their children would one day be judged only by the content of their character.

"We are so proud of our children for taking initiative and standing up for what they believe in and being brave in achieving their dreams," the parents said.

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