Speakers encouraged students to be a part of the change they hope to see in a Black History Month program Thursday at Flowery Branch High.
University of North Georgia student Roger Long said “people don’t realize how powerful they are in making change.”
The biggest way to do this is “to participate in the political process,” as he encouraged a room full of young and upcoming voters.
“I believe Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) would consider poverty our largest social justice crisis,” said Long, a sociology major.
Diving into his topic, he talked to students about “how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Long outlined what he called the current crises in America regarding poverty, such as low minimum wage and how this long-term issue is nowhere near being solved.
Flowery Branch senior Kassidy Thomas, who is an intern at The Times, read a poem she wrote for the event, titled “Black is Nothing More Than a Color. Nothing More, Nothing Less.”
She listed the names of several prominent African-American leaders and pioneers, saying “I recognize the accomplishments made by these individuals as a whole not just because of the color of their skin. Because black is merely a color. Nothing more and nothing less.”
Being “a girl of color” as she referenced herself in her poem, Thomas said she hopes her part in the presentation teaches her fellow students “they can look past skin color.”
Local dance team Lil Bosses and Brenau University’s step team also performed at the event.
Flowery Branch Work-Based Learning coordinator Felicia Doyle coordinated the third-year program.
“As an African-American, I think it is important to show our history as American history,” Felicia Doyle said.
A video about the origins of black history month and a video highlighting the accomplishments of African-American inventors were shown to the audience.
Opening with “Why do you hate my children?” and a short spoken word containing the names of well-publicized cases involving police and African-Americans, underlined by stomps from the other team members, the Brenau group made a strong impact on the students.
“Ooohhhh’s” could be heard from the crowd of students, as the team stepped rhythmically and incorporated noticeably modern dance moves, many popular with young people.
“I enjoyed the performances completely,” junior Gussy Inman said. “This stuff is needed to be seen to create a sense of diversity.”
She, along with her class, were in attendance for the second of two performances of the program.
“We just wanted to do a routine that shows black culture, black pride … from a strong group of women’s point of view,” said Nicole Vernon, leader of the Brenau step team.
“I hope (the students’) knowledge was increased … their eyes were opened,” Doyle said. “Also … for African-American students to know they have a voice and are important.”
The students and faculty in attendance all walked away having learned about the shared cultural experience that it means to be an American.
“Black history is American history,” Long said. “The only way to know where you’re going is to know where you’ve been.”