Black History Month starts with dancing

Feb. 2—Black History Month started with a districtwide celebration at the high school's west gymnasium on Friday.

Students watched performers drum and dance in costume on the gym's floor and were even asked to come out and learn an African dance — the KuKu — from the troupe. That invitation was taken on by about 50 students and staff.

Janiaya Bennefield, a Lockport High School senior, was one of the students who jumped onto the floor.

"I got up to dance because it is my culture," she said. "I felt a need to learn the dances. I thought it was easy and fun and the music was great."

Superintendent Mathis Calvin III said this year for Black History Month the focus was on the arts and there was more to come.

"We're going to have a number of different activities. The visual arts. Different forms of music for our kids. We'll have a dancer coming in. ... we'll have different people coming in doing poetry," he said. "They're (the visiting artists are) going to teach about the history, African-American history, and have the students participate in it as much as what's practical."

According to a press release, another event that is open to the public will occur at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the LHS Mid-Winter Instrumental Concert. The performance will feature music by Black composers. There will also be a showing of "Akeelah and the Bee" at 5 p.m. on Feb. 16. Both will be at the LHS Visual & Performing Arts Center.

There will also be field trips to the Niagara Falls Underground Heritage Center and the Albright Knox Art Gallery.

Heather McClain, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity, also attended the high schooler's presentation on Friday morning. The rest of the schools were bused to the high school to watch the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble from SUNY Brockport for three other performances throughout the day.

"What I loved the most about this group and their performance was they were bringing in the different cultures of Africa," she said. "But what I really love about it is that its troupe is diverse. Those are the college students (from Brockport). I love it because they're welcoming and that's a great message for our kids here," she said.

The troupe showcased three songs from different countries in Africa, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria.

"I am definitely proud to be a Lion. Celebrating Black History Month makes me feel like my culture is important to the school," Bennefield concluded.

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