On Saturday, March 21st, the Thurgood Marshall Academy community took a trip to Motown for “Celebrating Our Roots.” Now in its fifth year, the annual program provides an avenue for students and the greater community to celebrate African and African-American culture and heritage through visual and performing arts. This year, TMA celebrated all things Motown, taking students, teachers, and families on an artistic and musical journey that explored the distinct sound of ‘60s and `70s Detroit.
Attendees began the morning by moving through an Art Walk, which featured hand-drawn portraits of Marvin Gaye by numerous TMA students. Following the Art Walk, the live performance kicked off with the familiar bass line of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” With TMA Senior, Aaron Parrish-Dean, acting as Marvin Gaye and the narrator, attendees were taken on a journey that shared the origins of the rich history and cultural influences of the Motown era. Attendees were treated to performances of eight Motown classics with an ensemble including TMA’s dance team, chorus, and band. Students and staff hand-picked each song to reflect a particular point in the history of Motown. The performance ended with a spirited rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, while student performers connected the theme of social justice in the past to the present by referencing the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
This year’s “Celebrating Our Roots” was a bittersweet affair, as this is the final production for the creator of the program, Art Teacher Nafeesah Symonette. Reflecting on this year’s performance, Ms. Symonette said, “Celebrating Our Roots has become an anticipated event at Thurgood Marshall Academy and for good reason. In its fifth year we have explored many different genres of African and African–American culture for the purpose of not only preserving pieces of our history, but introducing it to a new audience. Our student population and surrounding community are involved in the creative process, which supports cross curricular learning and a sharing of community input and professional talent.”
Ms. Symonette organized the first Celebrating Our Roots event in 2011, and while she leaves behind some very large shoes to fill, the entire TMA community looks forward to continuing her work in the years to come!