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Mpls. Students Explore Black History On Stage

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In front of parents and family members, students at Minnesota School of Science (MSS) performed a play that brought history to life and highlighted their heritage.

Kimberly Jones, dean of students at MSS, says many of her students are unaware of their roots.

“What I’ve noticed is a lot of our students don’t know a lot about their own history; where they come from, where their great grandmothers and grandfathers are from,” Jones said.

Jones wrote the play “A Day in Black,” which tackles some dark chapters in black history as well as celebrating milestones.

“I wanted to do a play to that allowed them to see that we came from one place, we had this really horrible experience and what it meant for us and what it means for them,” she said.

Every student in kindergarten through sixth grade participated in Friday’s program. The play takes the kids from Africa, through the Middle Passage and slavery, and up through today with Barack Obama as president.

Jones has adapted those tough parts of history into events that are relatable to kids. She says the students understand the lessons, and their questions become discussions for all.

Clorinda Jacobson is a kindergarten teacher at MSS. She says there have been a lot of questions, but the classroom is the appropriate place to teach social and emotional lessons.

“The kids really like the stories, and we’ll be continuing to teach them throughout the end of the year,” Jacobson said. “Meaningful and relevant stories are really what engage the kids.”

Some of the darkest chapters in history are interpreted in the play. Through watching their peers, students like Jamesha Hatchett discovered a part of her family’s past.

“It was really taking me to a time where I could feel like I was watching what was going on during slavery,” Hatchett said.

The youngest actor in the play is portraying one of the biggest faces of the Civil Rights moment. Kindergarten student Justavion White portrays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even at six years old, he’s able to understand and share messages from that pivotal moment in time.

“He brought peace to our world,” said White. “He gave a speech. He didn’t want people treated how they shouldn’t be.”

White says he uses King’s lessons at recess, where he’s nice and fair to his fellow schoolmates.

Drawing inspiration from the play, Jones wants the students to use history as a guideline and inspiration in their lives.

“Getting them with the idea [that] you can dream, you know, really, really big. And you can accomplish really, really great things if you dream about it,” she said.

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