Everything you do matters.

That was the message of the Lockport High School Black History Club’s annual Black History event Thursday. Lockport students celebrated black history with skits, poetry readings, dances and singing in front of an auditorium full of parents, community members and fellow students.

“It was a good turnout, a wonderful evening, I think everyone had a good time,” said Monica Harling, Lockport teacher and club adviser. “We tried to mix it up a little bit.”

Guest speaker Anthony Neal, an associate professor of political science at Buffalo State College, spoke before the performances. Neal started off by explaining how February became black history month and the importance of it. He said the remembrance started in the 1920s when historian Carter Woodson started a “Black History Week,” which would eventually grow to a month-long event. Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglas.

“The reason that Carter G. Woodson established this time to look at black history is because he believed if people did not study their history, they could not go forward,” Neal said. “They had to look back to see where they had come from before they could move forward.”

Neal spoke about attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama last month with a group of Buff State students. Despite the weather, Neal said everyone there, about 2 million plus, did not lose heart over the joyous occasion. Obama’s election was the third time Neal has had to rewrite his lecture notes. The first was when President Bill Clinton became the second president to be impeached, and the second was when President George W. Bush became the first president in more than 100 years to lose the popular vote but win in the electoral college.

“History is constantly changing, constantly updating itself,” Neal said.

The theme of the night was inspired by the poem, “What You Do Matters,” written by Lockport student Nathalie Torres, who read the poem Thursday at the event. Other performances included “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by students London Price and Thurman Harden, Alicia Keys’ “No One” presented by Lakeisha Smith and a dramatic poetry interpretation of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” by Latisha Salter.

Desiree Wiley and Savannah Cranford performed lyrical dances. Two poems were recited: Angelou’s “Still I Rise” by student Destinee Fluellen and “God, Why Did You Make Me Black” by Ramel Robinson. Robinson’s poem included “God’s Reply” being recited by Alfonzo Maye.

Other student performances included two skits. The first was “What Could Make a Thug Cry,” which was the story of a high school boy making some bad choices in life. In the skit, one of those choices led to drugs and easy money, but had a devastating consequence that led to the boy losing his younger brother.

The second skit, “A Tribute to Rosa Parks,” was a re-enactment of Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The act led to the famous bus boycott that eventually gave rise to the civil rights movement. The entire night had enough work to go around for advisers and club members, alike.

“It was a lot of work, but it’s funny how everything comes together,” Harling said. “I couldn’t be happier. As always, the kids came through and did a wonderful job.”

The audience seemed to enjoy themselves. The cheers were loud all night and some even clapped along with Smith’s performance of “No One.” The Emmet Belknap Middle School Wildcats Drill Squad drew some loud applause too.

“I really liked the drill team,” Jada Joseph, a fifth-grader at Anna Merritt Elementary School, said. “I’m going to Emmet next year and I might join.”

Last year, the club hosted a panel discussion with educators, community advocates and students speaking on some issues affecting the community and society as a whole.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick

at 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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