PS 84 Celebrates Black History Month
Feb 22, 2012
What do the fire escape ladder, carbon filament production, and modern hair care have in common? All were invented by African-American visionaries. This was just one of many discoveries by the attendees at PS 84’s second annual MKL/Black History Month Event.
On Friday, February 17th, students regaled parents, school staff and their classmates with highly energetic and informative performances, all focused on African-American history. The show was developed by the Greenpoint Y’s Offsite KIC Y Afterschool program, which, in addition to “promoting creativity and a love of learning…encourages the importance of inclusion among the world’s many cultures.”
The 5 year olds gave their own versions of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, wishing that we all smile, play together, and help one another achieve equality and world peace. The 6 and 7 year olds presented a world without the contributions of African-Americans. People would have bad hair (without the beauty products of Madam C. J. Walker – the first woman to become a millionaire), walk around in the dark (without Lewis Howard Latimer’s method for manufacturing carbon filaments in light bulbs), and be trapped in fires (without the invention of the fire escape ladder by Joseph B. Winters), they explained.
Members of the Feraba-African Rhythm Tap Dance Company stole the show. Master dancer and Guinea native Yalani Bangoura’s acrobatic demonstrations of traditional African dances amazed everyone. Percussionist and teacher Ibrahima Kolepe and his students Niko Koloseus and Aliseni Bangoura (Yalani’s son), both barely older than the PS 84 students, wowed with their powerful demonstrations of African drumming. In their last piece, “Makuru,” Yalani Bangoura asked for some volunteers, to which the kids obliged, happily dragging their parents to the stage. Entire families and YMCA volunteers then got an impromptu lesson in African dance, with arms waving in the air and thighs shaking madly to the beat.
The Feraba Company was a tough act to follow, but the eight year olds did not disappoint. Beginning with a scene in which African-Americans are forced to give up their seats, the students then portrayed several Black heroes, including Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Step Dancers, aged 9-12, then gave a brief history and demonstration of tap dancing. The demanding dance style, with deep roots in African-American culture, has influenced many forms of entertainment and was even performed by soldiers during World War II as entertainment. Kids tap danced both in the aisles and onstage, drawing massive applause from the school and the impressed Feraba Company.
“The children responded well and that’s really important to me,” said a smiling Yalani Bangoura. “They were wonderful! We had a great time teaching them about music and I hope the Y calls us again.”
KIC Afterschool Coordinator Karina Montoya agrees. “It was such a great event and the school supported us very much. And the kids worked really hard. The Step Dancers practiced for over a month!”
The success of the show was also particularly important as a way of strengthening cultural bonds in the Williamsburg community. “We have a have a large Latino population at the school,” said the school’s PTA President, Ileana Santos-Moya. “So it’s great that we show their connection to African culture. And now everyone can see that we’re all connected.”
Get ready for March when PS 84 will celebrate Women’s History Month with a new show called “I’m Every Woman.”