Teachers and students at Forest Park Middle School spent three hours last Friday creating a positive story about African Americans in an effort to help students of all races be proud of their contributions without glossing over the negative images and stereotypes throughout history.

After watching negative images of African Americans from the film, Birth of a Nation, TV shows and cartoons, teacher Bob Liddell and four student co-hosts gave short talks in their own words about what Black History Month means to them.

“Black History Month is a time when African-Americans come together to celebrate those before us who fought for our rights … to thank those people for giving us hope,” student Shamya Melton said. “Black History Month is a time when black people are able to speak up for themselves and say more of how we feel.”

Student Jah Jah Alleyne said, “I am a black male and we have a lot of struggles in the United States. …Black history has shown me how strong black people are, how strong we have been throughout history and how strong we can be. With all that’s going on right now, black history is just as important for everyone as it was in 1926.”

Camilo Medina, who is Hispanic, revealed how he identified with black figures in American history. He said, “Black History is the story of how African Americans earned their rights and fought for them. … Right now, we are all fighting for our rights.”

Students also watched a trailer from the movie, Hidden Figures as well as a video of the Obamas dancing at the first presidential inaugural ball and a video of Michelle Obama with Stevie Wonder singing.

Middle School Principal Joe Pisano told students that education is key and that sloughing off on homework or not doing their best on testing is going to condemn them to not achieving their potential. 

“The purpose of the program this morning is to create a new narrative by highlighting the bright spots in black history but also by acknowledging parts that aren’t so good. … We can’t move forward by sugar coating the facts.”

“Education is the key,” he said. “These students have control over their own destinies. They have a chance to make history. They are our country’s future.”

 Liddell said he wanted the program to remind students Black History Month is about more than color. “It’s about people. It’s about America.”