Black History Month annually gets plenty of attention at all levels throughout the district, but the elementary schools often come up with the most imaginative ways to observe the occasion. This year is no exception.
For example, last week we shared photos of an exhibit at Hubbell Elementary School built around the speculation of what a world without black people might be like.
Monday morning, we attended an assembly at Jackson Elementary that featured a who’s who of local African- American role models in everything from tiaras to judicial robes. The event culminated with a reenactment of one of the sparks that ignited the American Civil Rights Movement.
The reigning Miss Iowa, Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, prefaced her anti-bullying presentation by telling Jackson students that Iowa broke ground in 1970 by becoming the first state to send an African-American representative, Cheryl Brown, to the Miss America pageant.
Two District Associate Judges, Odell McGhee and Romonda Belcher, were also there. Judge Belcher, the first African American female judge in the state of Iowa, is also the sister of Jackson 3rd grade teacher Tammy Hurley.
Another special guest was Robert Stanton with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. He was recently promoted to as chief of the county’s detention system, the first African-American to hold the position in Polk County.
After speaking to the students about growing up in North Carolina aspiring to become a judge so she could ensure that all people receive fair and equal treatment under the law, Belcher slipped away to the dressing room to get into character and costume as Rosa Parks.
Students played supporting roles as her fellow passengers on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama where Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, in violation of one of the Jim Crow laws that were still on the books and strictly enforced in the American south during the mid-20th century.
The finale was a stirring rendition of We Shall Overcome, the unofficial anthem/battle hymn of the Civil Rights Movement, sung in full-throated unison by all of the Jackson Stars, led by Judge McGhee and accompanied on keys by Jackson music teacher Katelyn Stessman.