Thursday, March 2, 2017, was a momentous day at Fred T. Korematsu Middle School: It marked the El Cerrito-based school’s first-ever Black History Month Assembly.
We’re proud to report the special event was powered behind-the-scenes by For Richmond Community Convener Tanise Smith, who works on-site at the middle school.
Set in the school’s multipurpose room, the Black History Month Assembly brought together seventh and eighth-grade students from diverse ethnic backgrounds to celebrate African-American culture in two separate sessions.
From start to finish, the talents of Korematsu’s students were on display, with dancing, history presentations, spoken word, poetry and more featured during the impressive assembly.
Students Aaries Evans and Lanyiah Lee shared the role of masters of ceremonies for the assembly, which kicked off with a modern jazz/hip-hop dance performance by dancers from teacher Jennifer Smith’s class.
Next up was a quick tidbit on African-American culture provided by student Lesslie Orozco, followed up by a slide presentation by students Chikala Warden, Atiya Gallon and Ta’Janae Fierro Blake—from John Lehman-Winters History class—re: the development of African-American culture and society. During their presentation, the students talked about African-American personalities of their choice, including Beyonce, NWA and the Black Panther Party.
Also during the assembly, students Elyza Jarvis-Gates, Oscar Leon and Kevin Duran talked about the importance of spoken word in the African-American culture, leading in to a presentation of lyrics by the late musician Tupac Shakur by fellow students Piper Gillern, Mara Bravo, Jaylin McDaniel and “RJ” Rodney Green.
Approximately 17 students from teacher Chwezi Fulumirani’s History class—who worked with RTEP instructional aide Eve Harris—collaborated to recite the poem “What Makes You Strong Black People.”
The nearly one-hour assembly was topped off with a performance by another one of Jennifer Smith’s dance classes.
“I wanted to ensure students had time to celebrate African-American culture and [for] them to have a leadership role and to set a precedent of diversity and collaborative effort at Korematsu,” said For Richmond’s Tanise Smith regarding her aim in organizing the assembly.
“Our group is extremely diverse and most of them volunteered,” she added. “I introduced [the assembly kick-off] but the students took the reins on everything else.”
In all, dozens of Korematsu students—including Janiah Mayweather and Margoth Gutierrez—came together to make the school’s first Black History Month Assembly one to remember.
“Our first Black History Month event was a resounding success!” said Korematsu Principal Matthew Burnham. “Our school community worker Ms. Smith was able to engage our students in preparing and hosting the assembly. Seeing such a diverse groups of students present and perform made the event informative and engaging.”
Next up for Korematsu, according to Tanise Smith, is the school’s participation in the City of Richmond’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.
For Richmond Community Convener Tanise Smith contributed to this report.