Elizabeth Forward celebrates African culture
Students at Elizabeth Forward Middle School celebrated Africa with dancing, drumming, dining and more on Thursday.
The festivities were part of a visit from members of the UMOJA African Arts Company to coincide with the school's observation of Black History Month. The visit was part of a new initiative at the school to celebrate world cultures on a monthly basis.
Audience participation was the name of the game during lunch periods as students in grades 6-8 learned and participated in traditional African dances taught by percussionists Anthony Mitchell Jr. and Dion Jacob, who played the dundun and djembe drums, respectively.
“We enjoy kids because their hearts are still pure,” said Mitchell, who has performed for people of all ages.
Jacob said seeing students smile and knowing they are enjoying the music makes for a rewarding experience. Jacob, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago but now lives in Pittsburgh, said teaching youth about another culture is very satisfying.
“We know that they'll grasp some of this,” he said.
Sixth-grader Haley Muir was one of the students taking it all in Thursday. Haley, who plays several instruments including snare drum in band, said the rhythms provided by the UMOJA drummers were something new for her.
“It's really cool and it's really different from what we do,” she explained. “I want to learn to do that.”
Apparently, she wasn't the only person who felt that way. Students and staff clapped along with some of the rhythms. Dozens of students congregated around the drummers for the various dances, which came from the West African tradition.
Sixth-grade food class students Bri Skalican and Juria Flournoy were stationed at a table giving away African-style desserts their counterparts in seventh grade baked for the occasion. The sweets capped off a specially prepared meal of African cuisine served by the school's lunch provider, The Nutrition Group, which included South African chicken with yellow rice, and cucumber and zucchini salad. In addition, the cafeteria was decorated with images of the flags of African nations.
UMOJA president Darcel Madkins said the visit was part of an effort by her group to educate students in outlying communities around Pittsburgh. The group regularly performs in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system through a Heinz Endowments grant. The company has also performed in the Moon Area School District and for Propel charter schools.
Middle school assistant principal Trisha Maddas said she is working with Madkins to see if grant funding is available to make visits to Elizabeth Forward a regular occurrence.
Maddas said a celebration of the culture of Ireland is planned for March.
African storyteller Temujin Ekunfeo said his visit to some of the middle school's classrooms was a good one.
“It was a chance to tell the history and culture of a continent they know little about,” he said. “It broadens their view of the world.”
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Grant will benefit Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin
- McKeesport Area schools to provide outreach activities
- Paving, electronics upgrades evident at Steel Valley
- Mon Valley steelworkers rally for new contract
- County shuts down Clairton demolition work
- West Mifflin Community Day returns to airport grounds
- Renzie Park projects top list of requests for RAD funding
- Homestead violence escalates with second day of shootings
- Mon-Yough water line upgrades will lead to more reliable service
- McKeesport’s Minerva Bakery gets spotlight in WQED special
- New structure going up in Duquesne industrial park