Red Bank Regional Celebrates Black History Month with Message for the Future
Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) diversity and talents were on full display at its annual celebratory assembly for Black History Month. Students from various groups within the school contributed their time and skills to enlighten their peers on the importance of celebrating Black History.
Principal Risa Clay welcomed her school and explained the origins of Black History Month which was initiated by Harvard Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson during the month of February, the birthdays of both Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, extremely influential leaders in African American History.
She added, “His (Dr. Woodson’s) initial goal was to honor these two great leaders. His other goal was to infuse African American history into American history so that all Americans would learn the complete history of the United States.”
The Multicultural Club presented a summary of the evolution of Black music from the 1950s to the 1990s highlighting such musical icons as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, James Brown and Whitney Houston among so many others. The students also gave a demonstration on “Stepping” popularized by Greek fraternities in historically black colleges which, like many other African-American inventions, spread to the greater American culture. The History Club highlighted the lives of “Unsung Heroes” of the Civil Rights era including such heroes and heroines as Dorothy Irene Height, Bayard Rustin, Daisy Bates, and Medgar Evers to name a few. The RBR Visual & Performing Artists entertained their peers with a multitude of modems. The Strings Ensemble Presented “Amazing Grace” and “Movement and Blues”. The RBR Dancers performed a student-choreographed dance to “Ordinary Love” the theme song for the movie Mandela- Long Walk to Freedom. Creative writers and performance poets elicited the audience’s cheers with their captivating original works and performances related to contemporary events in Ferguson and other parts of the country that have spotlighted the realization that, though civil rights have come a long way, there is still a ways to go.
Speaking not just to the past but to the future and personal responsibility was the keynote speaker Julius Clark. The Vice Principal of Red Bank Middle School is an icon among many of the students at RBR who he mentored through their middle school years.
Mr. Clark’s message was powerful and blunt. He warned the students against accepting stereotypes of people and using such as an excuse to fail. He stated, “I do not let my color, or what people (might) think of me, to define who I am. You determine what others will think of you (by your actions).” Admitting that, like other young black men, he encountered racism, but it was a challenge that he overcame. Never did he resort to violence, stating, “That is what they were looking for.” Instead his response was to achieve his bachelor’s degree, then his masters and at the age of 31, the position of Vice Principal and he added, “And I still have much more to accomplish.”
His philosophy of “Do unto others, as you would have done do you,” was echoed in his message to black males to treat females as they would like their mothers or sisters treated, and for females to respect themselves in their actions. He told the students to establish a goal, a plan and then to work hard to achieve it stating, “How do you know where you are going if you don’t have an idea of the destination you want to reach?…. And yes sometimes you may fail, but your success will be determined on how you will overcome that failure.”
And he cautioned them never ever, to say “I can’t do it.” Those words were never allowed to be spoken in his classroom explaining, “Once you say I can’t, your goal is done,”He ended his speech with a demonstration asking all the students to stand and reach as high as they could. Then he asked them to reach a little higher, stating, “Just know that when you think you have reached your capacity, you could always go a little higher.”