Highland Home program celebrates rich heritage

Published 12:34 pm Monday, March 4, 2024

By Makayla Clayton and Savannah Edgar

Special to The Luverne Journal

Highland Home School held its annual black history day assembly Feb 16. The assembly, a proud tradition of Highland Home School, was led by Adrian Daniels and the theme was “African Americans and the Arts.” 

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Savannah Edgar welcomed students and guests, followed by JaMya Foster who gave a speech about why black history month is important for all. 

Marleigh Burkett introduced the guest speaker Dr. Sitembile Lee, the first African American Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine to come out of Brantley. 

The speech delivered by Dr. Sitembile Lee was a powerful reflection on her personal journey. Lee stressed the importance of community support, and the significance of Black History Month. Lee highlighted the influence of her grandfather’s advice to “work hard, be smart, and do what the teacher tells you to do” and connected it to the foundation that has guided her throughout her life.

“A foundation, as defined by Webster, is a basis upon which something stands or is Supported,” Lee said. “Take a look at where you are today. Think of your friends, coaches, mentors, teachers and family. Now look at them as a part of your basis, your grounding. A community like Highland Home and Crenshaw County is a blessing to be a part of and I didn’t quite grasp how much of a support system we have, until I left my hometown of Brantley. I’ve encountered so many people throughout my journey from all walks of life and not everyone had the support of a community that encouraged, provided and protected their members…But that is why we are here today. To celebrate, honor, and reflect on Black History.  We continue to work hard to overcome any limitations and we pay homage to many brave individuals that overcame obstacles so that I can be where I am today, the individuals that paved the way, and who will continue to pave the way, some of you are in this room. It is not a time to take lightly, for many of us would not be where we are today if it was not for the kind souls that broke barriers, fighting for what was right and standing strong on their faith and personal beliefs.”

Kasey Pouncey presented the special awards for the day. 

“We present the Standing Tall Awards each year to individuals who accomplish firsts in our area and communities,” Pouncey said. “We have recognized the first black teacher at HHS, the first black student at HHS after segregation, and several others. This year, we proudly recognized Mr. Adrian Daniels, the first African American athletic director at Highland Home, and Dr. Sitembile Lee, the first African American Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Brantley.”

Khadra Clayton read the poem “Hey, Black Child,” presented alongside a slideshow featuring childhood and current photos of Highland Home African American staff and community members. “Hey, Black Child” is a poem written by Useni Eugene Perkins with a message of encouragement for black children to believe in themselves and their potential for the future.

In Pouncey’s middle school classes, students were tasked with researching relevant personal characteristics contributing to an African American entrepreneur’s success, and then complete a biographical resume. To culminate the lesson, the students created a pop art portrait of their entrepreneur. 

Ten of Pouncey’s middle school students presented their pop art and a description of the entrepreneur they researched. One student was eighth grader, JoAnna Chandler. Chandler presented Annie Turnbo Malone, a pioneer in the beauty and cosmetics industry.  

“This is my second year having the opportunity to present my art in the Black History Month program,”Chandler said. “Mrs. Kasey’s lessons often give us a chance to learn about topics we ordinarily wouldn’t explore and give us the chance to use our creative side.“

During the program, Melody Young recited “Peace to Me” by Esther Ayisire, a poem describing what peace means to the author and the importance of peace in the world. 

Highland Home fifth graders sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Micheal Cooper. The song serves as a reminder for Black Americans that each generation has had to lift their voices, along with those within their community, to demand and protect their human rights .

The lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” speak of the struggle and resilience of African Americans throughout history. The tune celebrates the triumphs and accomplishments of African Americans, while also acknowledging the challenges and obstacles they have faced. 

Kristen Threatt’s fourth grade classes presented a segment of the program entitled   “Who Am I?” where students portrayed various notable African Americans telling  the life stories and achievements of the person that they did their project on. 

Amber Rose Haris described “What is Black History ?“ and the ninth grader spoke on our black history and what it meant to the community. 

The Praise Dance team performed “He Still Loves Me.” Team members Jessica Bodiford, Dazandria Cargill, Aubrelle Chambers, MaKayla Clayton,Lakelin Colvert, JaKya Foster, JaNya Foster, JaKeria Foster, JaMya Foster, Jae’lynn June, Anicah Rodgers an Jiya Shepherd were a part of the performance. 

Sandra Hall read the “New Day’s Lyric Poem” by Amanda Gorman. The poem was a symbol of how over time people have come together. In the poem, Gorman refers to her own life experience as a young Black poet speaking at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.