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Celebrating Our Roots All Month Long

P1040254At the close of Black History Month, Thurgood Marshall Academy hosted Celebrating Our Roots, a powerful production that honored the Civil Rights Movement. The event allowed students, alumni, faculty and staff, and the community to relive monumental moments in Black History and pay tribute to African-American leaders who paved the way for a better society. Through spoken word, poetry, dance, art, song, and other student-driven content, students displayed a passion for their culture during the grand finale event that concluded TMA’s month-long Black History celebration.

At the beginning of Black History Month, TMA launched its first-ever “Teach-in” that gave the entire student body a platform to celebrate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and delve into thought-provoking discussions about his life and legacy, and his role in education reform. Across history classes, students made connections between the legal battles Justice Marshall took on and the work that still needs to be done today.

“The History Department could not think of a better way to start this tradition than to celebrate Thurgood Marshall and understand a bit more about the man who our school is named after,” said Karen Lee, Social Studies Teacher.

After students explored Justice Marshall’s achievements and influences, the Black Awareness Club hosted a Thurgood Marshall inspired trivia scavenger hunt. “We are excited to see our students grow and be challenged by the work of Marshall,” said Alecia Walker, the club’s advisor. Ms. Walker, who coordinated Celebrating Our Roots, is also TMA’s African-American Studies Teacher. She continues to create a classroom environment where students can apply class lessons to today’s hot-topic societal issues like the Black Lives Matter Movement.

P1040139Ms. Walker, like many teachers in the History and English department at TMA, find creative ways to provide a safe space for students to discuss challenges facing their communities, particularly social justice issues. Students in Ms. Lee’s US Government class and Ms. Lyon’s British Literature class led an informed discussion with students from Edmund Burke School and D. Watkins, author of “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America,” about poverty, the justice system, politics, race, the achievement gap, and much more.

P1040187Students led another dynamic Q&A session with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who visited TMA alongside young advocates and non-profit leaders Yasmine Arrington, Clayton Armstrong, and Tony Lewis, Jr. The focus of the meet-and-greet was to inform students about the resources that are in place to help underserved communities. Congresswoman Norton talked about the importance of the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (or DCTAG) and how it benefits District residents, especially those from low-income homes. The other panelists dived into ways to overcome common social issues facing African-American communities as part of the “Millennial Success Stories” series.

During Black History Month, TMA works more collaboratively than ever to ensure that life-changing events that have shaped today’s world are at the forefront of class lessons, discussions, and activities. Celebrating Our Roots is an event that brings black history month full circle and challenges our students to use their gifts and talents to commemorate a moment in time that catapulted African-American leaders who were advocating for change.

In this Q&A, Angel Haythe (TMA ’15) shares why events like Celebrating Our Roots are an empowering way to showcase African-American history.

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Special thanks to 21st Century Community Learning Centers, DC Trust Catalyst for Youth Success, Diane Alemitu Anderson, and other supporters and friends who made Celebrating Our Roots possible.