Everybody look around
‘Cause there’s a reason to rejoice you see
Everybody come out
And let’s commence to singing joyfully
Everybody look up
And feel the hope that we’ve been waiting for
Can’t you feel a brand new day?
The morning of the annual St. Joseph High School Black History Month celebration began with a keynote speech delivered by Kim Kirkley, a noted NYC speaker and minister, followed with a performance of “Brand New Day” by the chorus and dance clubs. United African Women’s Society member Ziyah Myers, a Senior, explained this year’s Brand New Day theme, saying, “A lot of times we focus on negative things in the black community – for this celebration we wanted to look beyond these things to a brighter future.” She explained that doing this doesn’t mean to stop working for an end to racial injustice and suffering, but rather to embrace and live hope, and to celebrate and shine a light on the good that already exists.
Workshops: Natural Beauty, College Life, Entrepreneurship, and Dramatic Monologues
During the morning, students attended workshops they had chosen in advance with guest speakers, on topics including “Why Hustle When You Can Be An Entrepreneur?” “It’s A Different World: College Life 101” “ Beauty and the Beat: Taking Care of Yourself…Naturally” and “Get Your Act Together: Monologues for Modern Girls”. All the workshop topics dovetailed with the theme of hoping for, and living in the present, a bright and beautiful future.
The celebratory atmosphere became even more tangible during a fantastic one hour Social Dance Workshop with guests from the renowned Camille A. Brown Dance Studio. This workshop followed upon lessons and activities students had been doing in the prior week on the history of Social Dance in the African American tradition.
Watch: Camille A. Brown’s History of Social Dance for Ted-Ed
Food for Everyone
For many students including Ziyah, the delicious homemade lunch was the one of the highlights of the celebration – beginning with the huge effort of coordinating food contributions from the senior students and the school’s faculty, and leading up to a fantastic lunch of mac and cheese, fried chicken, rice, ice tea, cupcakes, cookies and more, Ziyah compared the meal to Thanksgiving, with everyone laughing and joking and enjoying themselves, and an infectious family feeling permeating the cafeteria.
Welcome to the Emerald City
The final event of the day was a fashion show, with student and faculty models, themed around the iconic Emerald City Sequence from The Wiz, where the alternating Green, Red, and Gold light show provided a backdrop for displaying glittering, gorgeous apparel. For our fashion show, the models showcased their own clothing, across a variety of styles, and were met with massive applause, and the typical runway flurry of photography.
Ms. Aiesha Turman, English Department Chair and UAWS coordinator, explained that it is crucial the event maintain a focus on self-care and celebrating each girl’s beauty and dignity. This is the core underlying message of the event that runs through from the theme, to the workshops, to the dancing, food, and fashion show. For Seniors like Ziyah, who plans to attend college next year to study Marketing and Journalism, it’s important to leave behind some words of advice for future UAWS members who will plan next year’s event. When looking for a theme and planning coordinated events, she says, “Think of something that connects everyone, and that makes people happy.”