Lower School Celebrates MLK and African-American History Month

Aminata D. ’30 sings “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
Aminata D. ’30

Songs, artwork, poems, biography reports about famous icons, and more, were part of the learning celebration in this year’s combined Lower School Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly and African-American History Month Assembly on Friday, February 19. The program was live streamed to all of the Lower School community.

The presentation began with a viewing of portraits of important African Americans that are displayed in the Lower School. Aminata D. ’30 then sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often called the Black National Anthem.

Olugbala Williams
Olugbala Williams
Kim Davis

Pre-K Head Teacher Olugbala Williams, who is also the Lower School Diversity Coordinator, said of Martin Luther King, Jr. that it is not only his accomplishments that we remember him for, but also his ideals such as truth, peace, equity, and justice.

Kindergarten Head Teacher Kim Davis spoke about historian and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), who was known as the Father of Black History Month. “Our stories must continue to be told,” Davis said before the presentations began.

Nursery, Pre-K, and Kindergarten

Each class presented a video of their respective bulletin boards showing reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr. with voiceover descriptions of the work by teachers. One Nursery project studied how we are the same inside even if we look different outside. Nursery B learned that Martin Luther King Jr. worked to change bad rules. Children also shared their dreams for peace, taking care of trees, and for everyone to play together. Nursery C made a friendship wreath.

In Pre-K, students discussed what it means to be fair, including “everyone having water,” and expressed this in paintings. Pre-K C and Kindergarten read Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and learned to “be upstanding rather than bystanders.” They also learned that “words are powerful.” Kindergarten read about segregation in Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, who has been a guest in Lower School’s Author Visit Series. Kindergarten B made protest signs that read Be Kind and Black Lives Matter.

First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade

Students learned about the African American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and how he used symbolism in his art. They made art in the style of Basquiat. Other students read about Black scientists such as Lonnie Johnson, who worked for NASA, and also invented the popular Super Soaker. Another student read a report about botanist George Washington Carver, who found “300 uses for peanuts.” African American mathematician Katherine Johnson was the subject of another report. Johnson was part of NASA’s space program that put John Glenn into orbit in 1961. Another child reported on astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut. Grade 3 studied King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Students also read about Ruby Bridges, who at six years old in 1960 faced angry mobs when a judge ordered integration of an all-white school in New Orleans. They also read Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation.

Fourth Grade

Grade 4 began by highlighting how African American poet Amanda Gorman, the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate, was inspired by MLK in her poem presented during President Biden’s inauguration. Gorman, they said, wrote about America, still broken, but that there are a “lot of problems in our country, but not enough to break us.”

As Louis Armstrong sang “We Shall Overcome,” Grade 4 A presented an original poem puzzle inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each puzzle piece had lines that began with M, L, and K:

Mix black and white and a
Little bit of love to create
Kind and knowledgeable people. 

At the conclusion, a student said, “We all have work to do. If we have learned anything this year, it is that we all have to be part of making things right. We invite you to add your piece.”

Children then read reports about how they have been inspired by MLK’s legacy. In closing the assembly, Olugbala Williams said, “If there is one thing we should all remember about Dr. King’s monumental life, it is that he always fought against inequality. One of his tenets is that regardless of skin color we should all be treated fairly. Remember all human beings are just shades of brown. We are all one people and are deserving of respect. Everyone is deserving of respect, and I mean everyone.”

Kim Davis invited Teachers to accompany students for a walk around the Lower School to view the bulletin boards for African American History Month. “African American history is American history,” Davis concluded.

The presentation ended with the playing of a recording of “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free.”

Missed the Lower School presentation? Watch the video here.