INDEPENDENCE — Third-graders from Independence Elementary School “taunted” fellow classmate Niyah Starks as she portrayed Rosa Parks on Wednesday during the school’s celebration of Black History Month.
Niyah, who re-enacted Parks sitting on a bus in Montgomery, told her fellow classmates during a short performance that she wouldn’t move to the back of the bus.
As she told them her reasons for not moving, the students joined her in what is today known as an important milestone in freedom for black Americans.
Students in all grades watched as selected students and faculty members performed a liturgical dance, read poems and sang songs and spoke about the most important African-American inventors in the 20th century.
They also listened to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom many of the students consider a hero.
“I didn’t know about the others when I was young,” paraprofessional Lisa Banks said of the other important historical figures, adding that schools didn’t teach black history when she was that age.
“I only knew about one person, Martin Luther King,” she said.
Christoria Brown, 8, also didn’t realize that many black Americans had invented some of the items we most use and eat today, such as the traffic light and peanut butter.
“I learned about everything people made,” Christoria said. “I learned that it’s important to know about all of the people that invented things.”
As the students listened to the program, others whispered to one another about what they learned.
“I learned that we should care for each other and love each other,” Christoria said.
Jailyn Belcher, 8, a second-grader at the school, said she was excited about the program.
“I’m just real excited because we need to be together,” Jailyn said. “We don’t need to hate each other. It’s wrong. We need to be together and love each other.”
“It doesn’t matter what color they are, and whoever they are, you don’t treat them wrong and you should treat them right,” Jailyn said.
For Banks, the program was also about teaching the youths about history, their history and about the lives of the people that came before them.
“They need to know where they came from,” Banks said. “I don’t just mean that the black kids need to know where they came from, but all races need to know because we get a better understanding of each other.”