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Black history celebration goes beyond the textbooks

County recognizes African-American culture, history

Beverly Duromole, a participant in the 15th annual Clayton County Black History Month Celebration, models some traditional African clothing for attendees Sunday.

Beverly Duromole, a participant in the 15th annual Clayton County Black History Month Celebration, models some traditional African clothing for attendees Sunday.

— It’s not every day that one sees a cellist thrashing his long, curly hair around and rocking his cello like nobody’s business. But that’s how Mt. Zion High School student Devin Boyd performed Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror.”

It’s not every day that the struggles of African-American slaves are expressed in interpretive dance, but that’s how fellow Mt. Zion student DeBora Wingfield did it.

For one day approximately 100 Clayton County residents got to see the youths perform Sunday. They were among several young people who participated the 15th Annual Clayton County Black History Celebration hosted by Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) and the Clayton County Black History Center at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro.

“It went very well,” said Davenport. “The students are so talented and the community is so supportive of this event.”

The event was quite simply a celebration of African cultural diversity.

African drummers banged their traditional drums while dancers entertained the audience.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Mt. Zion High School Student Devin Boyd rocks out on his cello during a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” during the 15th annual Clayton County Black History Month Celebration Sunday.

A dozen women modeled traditional African clothing, made in bright, vibrant colors with matching head wraps.

Singers performed old hymns.

But many attendees said the most important aspect of the event was the fact that the younger participants got to hear a little bit about African-American history.

There was a short presentation on notable African-Americans in Clayton County schools, such as M.D. Roberts, who was the principal of Clayton County’s consolidated school for African-American students in the 1950’s and helped lead the school district’s integration in the 1960’s.

Morrow resident Christine Lucas said she felt it was important for young, school-age African-Americans to gain a deeper understanding of why people, such as Harriet Tubman, are important. She said students should learn how the legacies of the African-Americans they read about in history books created opportunities for later generations of African-Americans, such as President Barack Obama.

For that reason, she said, this past weekend’s celebration was important for the community. Lucas was one of the many attendees who wore traditional African clothing to the event.

“It is important for our young people to know their heritage and where we came from,” Lucas said.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner told senior citizens in the audience that young people should come to them in particular to learn about their heritage.

“What I really wish our young people would do is to sit down with you and learn what you had to go through for them to be able to enjoy what they are capable of enjoying,” Turner said.

Jonesboro resident Tina Henry echoed Turner’s statement. Students cannot learn everything about their history from the books they read in school, she said.

“It’s not all in a book,” she said. “It’s the experiences that these people have gone through and can share with the younger generation.”

After Boyd finished his energetic cello performance, a recording of his voice came over the sound system and asked the audience what Black History Month meant to them. He asked the attendees whether it was simply a celebration of the contributions made by notable African-Americans, or if it was a chance to say African-Americans had not been broken by the legacy of slavery.

“Why don’t we use our history as inspiration to take that one step that leaves our imprint in the sands of time — our time to take a stand?” Boyd said.