Students might notice a glaring absence this year among the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities. The annual MLK Assembly has been replaced by a day of Black History Month presentations.
The administration made the switch because it felt the assembly was straying too far away from its original purpose: to educate the students about the lives and legacies of significant African Americans in history.
“We are trying to diversify the strategies we use to celebrate Black History Month,” assistant principal Dr. Shiree Yeggins said.
It feels as though, due to their artistic nature, the administration is classifying past performances as merely “talent shows.”
The ECHO staff and drama teacher Todd Schaefer do not feel this is the case.
“This comes down to a debate between artistic expression versus educational value and expression. Art is not always put on that same scale,” Schaefer said.
To say the MLK assembly is a talent show is to dilute the messages of the students in the assembly to simple entertainment. Yes, they were relaying these messages through talent, be it a poem or a dance, but that should not diminish the fact that Schaefer got 47 African American students to get up on stage and express frustrations and issues that they rarely get the opportunity to express.
“The assembly and everything are similar to a parent/child relationship, like seeing them take their first steps. We [as teachers] have very few moments when that light bulb goes off or we see a student glow,” Schaefer said.
Students should also consider what this replacement means. Instead of a group, a majority of whom weren’t white, writing all its own material and performing it, the history club and sponsor Julie Burchett, a majority of whom are white, are researching facts about civil rights events and creating speeches in which the students presenting them will have no say.
There will still be a performance; however, it will not be available during school hours for all students. The cast had two daytime shows on Tuesday, Feb. 24, during second and third hours and will have one on Friday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
See also Slideshow: Student performers remember black history month.
See also WGHS students talk about Black History Month.
See also Students celebrate Black History Month’s 100th anniversary.