The Hoof Print (McDonough, Georgia)
On Friday, March 25, African-American studies teacher, Della Cayson, and several students hosted “From Africa to Hip-Hop,” Ola’s seventh annual Black History Month celebration, in the gym from 2:30 p.m. to 3:25 p.m.
The program’s theme centered around the power of music, and its ability to connect the world throughout the course of history. For some, the assembly was a chance to, not only celebrate Black History, but express their love of the arts while showing off some skill.
Genesis Guerrier and Tameesha Beliard, seniors, choreographed the group dances performed by students on Friday. Their goal was to take the traditional dance moves of Michael Jackson and give them a modern day spin.
They felt that the music was one of the more important aspects of the production.
Beliard said, “The message with the dancing is that the dances that we do now, it’s not really new. Back in the day, with our ancestors and so forth, they all started it, and what we do now is we just tweak it a little and change it up. When you watch the videos you see that’s the same stuff we’re doing; it’s just a little bit different style of music.”
Guerrier and Beliard have been dancing all their lives and they enjoyed being able to show off what they know and help the other dancers.
After the dance performances, the assembly moved into the hip-hop era of the early 1970s and the 1980s.
Being a freestyle cipher, Amauri “The Great” Richardson saunters around the gym as he raps improvised lyrics. Select students were given signs that were blank save for one word to hold as Richardson rapped.
Freestyle cipher, Amauri “The Great” Richardson, 17, performed, citing “a love of the music” as his prime motivator, and hopes to inspire other young people to be active and do what they love. Richardson is only a junior in high school and he has performed at several venues, including a red-carpet event, Symphony Hall and others; he’s co-president of the music program of the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club and an editor on his school newspaper.
Music aside, Richardson also expressed his passion for events that celebrated African-American culture. His father, Darreyl Richardson, is the founder of Conscious Movement Entertainment (CME) which helped make Friday’s program possible.
He said, “We have to show black people that they matter, as well as all people.”
That statement lines up well with the goals Cayson held for the program.
Before the assembly, Cayson said, “I would like for [the students] to see the appreciation that I have for my own culture and that I love my culture, and that me loving my culture doesn’t mean that I love any other cultures less.”
As the program went on it definitely felt like a celebration, an environment open to appreciation.
Students cheered for their peers in the opening number as they performed their Michael Jackson compilation of dance moves.
Later the assembly was stunned by the classic hip-hop dancing of “Zulu Quick” who left the audience with a new idea for the peace sign. Putting his index and middle finger together, side by side, he said, “This is peace, togetherness.”
The crowd was then quieted by the reading of Langston Hughes’ “I Too Sing America” by Nile Brodie.
Richardson improvised lyrics using words like “power”, “inspiration” and “hope” which students had written on posters beforehand for him to incorporate into his rap.
CME presented “King Palinoia”, dubstep dancer, and “Sparxx,” another hip-hop dancer; both had the crowd moving again and cheering them on.
Dancer King Palinolia performs a modern form of dance as he moves to electronic dance music. His signature style was robotic and electronic in nature.
Cayson stands before her students and the student body as she opens up her past. She spoke about mistreatment she faced for being African-American.
Cayson ended the assembly with a reading of a little bit of her own story. The student dancers from the beginning of the assembly circled around her platform as she spoke over them “Why I Will Teach African-American Studies until the Day I Die.”
Describing the hardships she undertook as an African-American growing up in a primarily discriminatory environment, she said, “I will forever teach African-American History and I will celebrate Black History every day because I am Black History and I celebrate myself. If you love me then you are celebrating without even trying.”
After the assembly, Cayson revealed that she had to calm herself down as she was not expecting to get so emotional. She said, “I did not realize I still had those emotions from all those years. I got choked up… As I was reading it, I guess I was reliving and it got to me.”
Cayson talked of her strong belief in recognizing and celebrating everyone for their own culture; she believes that the generation succeeding her own will be able to take equality and celebration farther.
Cayson said, “I realized, walking through faith, that everybody’s basically the same, we all want the same thing… The only thing that really divides us are the misconceptions that we place upon one another.”
Photo Credit: The Hoof Print