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Frank Porter Graham Bilingue Hosts Workshops for BHM

A single picture book, “The ABC’s of Black History,” has inspired numerous activities and events for Black History Month at Frank Porter Graham Bilingue (FPGB). A well-attended highlight of each week in February has been the Wednesday Workshops from 6:00-7:00 p.m., a pairing of 30 minute interactive sessions, using letters of the “Black history alphabet.”

Published in December 2020, “The ABC’s of Black History” is written by Rio Cortez and illustrated by Lauren Semmer, and as a recent addition to the library of children’s exploration of the Black experience in the Americas, it was not familiar to most students and parents. But it has surely become a favorite already!

FPGB Principal, Karen Galassi-Ferrer, suggested the Specials teachers each take a page from “The ABC’s of Black History” to illustrate and share for the Wednesday evening sessions. As a team, the Specials teachers are showcasing the intersection of African-descended people and Hispanic/Latinx culture. 

Among the Wednesday Workshops so far, Music Teacher, el Sr. Rody, presented “H is for Harlem,” as a dive into the Harlem Renaissance, and a look at what jazz and poetry from that era have in common with Puertorrican Bomba y Plena. He gave examples of jazz music from the Harlem Renaissance, noting the roots in Caribbean, African and North American styles. 

School Librarian, Janet Peterson, was inspired by “D is for Diaspora,” and she shared a little background about children's stories featuring Afro-Latinx children and families (in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the United States), and then a story read-aloud. 

“Our amazing school counselor, Barbie Garayua-Tudryn, did a tremendous amount of groundwork for our teachers and staff to prepare for teaching the book,” Peterson said.

“In the United States, not as many people are aware of the diversity of African-descended experience through diaspora, particularly in Hispanic/Latin countries, which ‘Teaching Tolerance’'s webinar ‘Latinx History is Black History’ and other sources make clear,” Peterson said.

Parent Alan Fairey said, “The FPGB BHM Wednesday Workshops have become a weekly highlight for our family. I have been extremely impressed with the presenters’ ability to appeal to the diverse population that our FPGB community represents. My family and I have walked away each week excited about what we have learned. We’re very grateful to Principal Galassi-Ferrer, FPGB CLASS, and everyone who has had a part in executing the workshops.” 

For the second round of Wednesday Workshops, Art Teacher Jessica Greene collaborated with Charlie Wynn, a teaching artist from Charlotte led a session, “I is for Imagine and Invent.” They showed several paintings from the NC Museum of Art, all created by Black artists with connections to North Carolina. First up was “Forward,” a tableau vivant featuring Harriet Tubman, painted by Jacob Lawrence. Students also examined and analyzed Romare Bearden’s “Ragging Home.” Wynn proclaimed their workshop was a virtual field trip, and she ended the session with students pretending to play the instruments shown in the Bearden painting. 

Also presenting on the second Wednesday was FPGB Physical Education Teacher, Flor Ramirez. She led “M is for March and Movement,” lively warm-ups for the students as she showed them slides from the MLK March from Selma to Montgomery.

For week three, Jessica Greene led a workshop, “U is for Unity,” for children to design and create their own flags. She showed a slide of David Hammons’ “African American Flag,” inspired by the PanAfrican flag. Students looked at the countries’ flags and discussed the similarities and differences between them, and they shared ideas about how flags can communicate identity and unite communities. Greene asked them to make flags that symbolize something special to them, and many children got to work quickly.

“S is for Salsa” was offered by Yelipza Carreno and Beto Herrera, of Mambo Dinámico!, an Afro-Latin Dance company. They discussed the interconnections between music, dance and culture, and with a single slide, they showed how the style of dance known as salsa draws from dance forms around the world: Flamenco, Contra Dance, Boogaloo, Cha Cha and Rumbas. And then-- the children danced.

Jayden Fairey, a second grade student who has attended the workshops with his family said, “It was really good for wearing me out and I learned a lot about my history.  It was a pleasure for me to win a book (from the raffle), and I think it is really fun ways of learning.”

FPGB student at BHM workshop Fletcher Kieckbusch is also an FPGB parent. “We have absolutely loved the FPGBBHM events. There has been a great combination of information and learning with fun, and exciting activities,” Kieckbusch said. “There has been art, music, reading, dancing, exercise, guest presenters and more. The faculty and staff have clearly put a great deal of thought and energy in creating these great sessions. Covington, our first grader liked the session Ms. Flor led best, using movement and marching to experience the Martin Luther King Jr. march from Selma to Montgomery. Our pre-k daughter, LillieMaie, says, ‘Thanks for all the events. I hope we can do more.’ I have thoroughly enjoyed the events just as much as my kids. It has been a great family activity for all of us.”