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Photo by Diane Cox
Robert Jenson, an assistant teacher to Angel Weber, instructs (seated) Jay’Ion Harrison, 13, and Sayveion Campbell, 14, as they work on a sculpture of a child that will be seated at a desk.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Students at Gilson Brown Elementary in Godfrey clap for fifth-grader Barbara Lewis after she read a biography of an influential African-American.
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Barbara Lewis, a fifth-grade student in Paul Berghoff’s classroom, is handed a microphone and script from Gilson Brown Principal JoAnn Curvey.
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Kylae Walsh, 14, and Tayla Johnson, 14, (seated on floor) work to fit shoes while 13-year-old Aamir Gage holds a life-size sculpture representing a 1960s U.S. marshal.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Angel Weber’s Alton Middle School art class made a life-size papier-mâché representation of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges as she was escorted through a mob into an all-white school in 1960.
ALTON — Alton Middle School art teacher Angel Weber says she believes in challenging her students and showing them everything is possible, even when others say it cannot be done.
“There have been times we’ve been told that we were shooting too high,” Weber said. “Then that same person will be amazed when they come back to see the finished project. These kids are smart, creative and very talented. They are responsible to come up with their own project choices and then they build it. It’s their decision to accept those challenges and then follow through with them. It may be hard, but look what they accomplish.”
Weber’s middle school students made the decision to build a life-size replica of the scene of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges as she was escorted into William Frantz Elementary School by four U.S. marshals through a mob of protesters in 1960.
“In honor of Black History Month, the students chose the historical moment captured in a photo of Ruby Bridges entering an all-white school for the first time,” Weber said. “This project shows citizenship, pride, respect of other cultures, school spirit and teamwork. All their work is done from scratch. They are brain-storming, using common sense, math, science and art. They are learning how to use many different tools safely. The artistic style was inspired by Edmonia Lewis, a black female sculptor from the 1800s.”
Weber’s art students’ Black History Month project is slated for completion by the last week of February and may be seen by visitors in the main office building until the end of the 2015-2016 school term.
Alton Middle School teachers have been encouraged to participate in a door-decorating contest with the theme of black inventors from the past or present. The winning door will receive a $50 gift card for classroom supplies for the remainder of the school year. A challenge has been issued for all students to design a T-shirt with a Black History Month slogan or design to show individual creativity. The winner will receive a $15 gift card and pizza party for two. The T-shirt design will be on display in the school display cabinet following the contest.
“Our school has really set the bar for racial unity and multicultural respect,” Weber said. “We hope these projects will show parents and members in the community that we work as a team here at AMS. We feel it’s important to work together to achieve racial harmony in Alton. These kids are definitely on their way. I don’t think there are any school programs that do it the way we do it here. Everything we do is focused on real life.”
Alton Middle School will share its talents with Gilson Brown Elementary School in Godfrey on Jan. 29 by putting on a play in honor of Black History Month.
“We are excited to see what the Alton Middle School has put together,” Gilson Brown Principal JoAnn Curvey said. “It’s amazing what a year will do as they move up ... the kids amaze me with what they can accomplish at the middle school level.”
Gilson Brown students celebrated their 100th day of class in the 2015-2016 school term with the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. As part of Black History Month, a student volunteers each day to read a short biography of an influential individual in African-American history.
“We have K-5 students and it takes a lot of courage to read in front of your peers,” Curvey said.
“Today Barbara Lewis of Mr. Paul Berghoff’s fifth-grade class read to the students. We’ve put posters on all the walls in the hallways and photos in display cases of African-Americans who have made an influence in history. There are so many of them. We are so fortunate to have a diverse group of students. It really wasn’t long ago when you wouldn’t have seen black and white children attend school together. I’m thankful for the time these kids live in.”
As schools across the country recognize Black History Month from the grade school level to colleges, Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey has events planned throughout February.
“We’re pleased with the offerings for Black History Month, which include a few familiar favorites and some new activities, too,” Student Activities Coordinator Jared Hennings said.
For information, contact Hennings at (618) 468-6400.
LCCC events from Feb. 13-29
• African Dance Workshops for Youth (9 a.m. to noon, with performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, Ann Whitney Olin Theatre, Hatheway Cultural Center): Children ages 6 through teens will learn dance techniques from African countries, Katherine Dunham style, hip-hop and majorette. Advance registration is required, but the performance is open to the public.
• East St. Louis Community Performance Ensemble (noon Monday, Feb. 15, Reid Café): The interactive dance performance will feature traditional West African drumming, artifacts and performances. Students will be encouraged to participate as they learn various techniques.
• Free Soul Food, sponsored by Student Activities (5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, Reid Café): L&C Student Activities is inviting students to grab some grub during a traditional soul food offering, which will feature favorites including greens, black-eyed peas, corn bread, fried chicken and candied yams.
• St. James Choral Ensemble (noon Wednesday, Feb. 17, Reid Café): The St. James Choral Ensemble, led by Choir Director Brenda Lancaster, will perform a variety of music including gospel, spirituals and hymns.
• Underground Railroad Bus Tour (departs at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, from Wade Hall): Back for the fourth consecutive year, the tour will take participants on a journey to explore some of the locations throughout the River Bend where slaves sought refuge as they escaped the South. Guide J. E. Robinson will provide the history and perspective of these sites. The tour will last for about an hour and a half. Although the tour is free, reservations are required. Those wanting more information or to make reservations can contact Hennings at (618) 468-6400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• KMOX Broadcaster Carol Daniel (11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 19, Reid Memorial Library): Daniel will discuss changes in radio broadcasting and skills needed to be successful in the job market.
• Pizza, Poetry and Music (noon Monday, Feb. 22, Underground Connection): St. Louis poet Nicole Nelson, also known as Poetic One, will share her ability to weave life experiences into teaching moments using the art of spoken word. Free pizza will be served.
• SIUE Black Theatre Workshop (11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, Benjamin Godfrey Chapel): Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Black Theatre Workshop is a performance troupe that celebrates the voices and visions of SIUE’s diverse student population. Its production, “Justice Too Long Delayed: A Celebration of Letters From The Birmingham Jail,” is a cutting-edge interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s response to the critics of his presence in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Using the letter as a backdrop, comparisons of issues of social justice during the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements will be brought to light in a theatrical experience that is both entertaining and insightful.
• Red Cross Blood, Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Drive (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, The Commons): Both students and community residents are encouraged to donate during the Red Cross blood, bone marrow and organ donation drive.
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