Celebrating courage that changed the world, students across Killeen honored leaders in February who stood up to oppression to free those shackled by chains and those paralyzed by ignorance.
In a swirl of artistry, inspiring words and creative song and dance, students manifested their diversity during Black History Month celebrations in February that reached back to the days of African kings and queens and looked forward to dreams not yet conceived.
At Manor Middle School on Monday, eighth-grader Avery Godsil performed an original rap as his peers brought his words to theatrical life. In three skits, Martin Luther King Jr. interacted with former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Katherine Johnson, a physicist and mathematician.
“What we wanted to achieve today was to show what Martin Luther King stood for,” Avery said. “It wasn’t just about freeing African-Americans, but freeing the mind about slavery.”
Manor eighth-grader Brianna Clipper was mistress of ceremonies. She said the overall message of the event was to show how brave leaders paved a way forward for future leaders of all ethnicities.
“It starts with seeing yourself and knowing there’s something there, there is a light leading you to where you are going,” Brianna said.
At Patterson Middle School Friday, history teacher Meghan Love played the part of herself, teaching students in a skit about the deeper meaning of studying black history.
The students entered the stage in stereotypical hip-hop clothing and told their teacher they knew all about Martin Luther King’s dream and their own roots as slaves.
The rest of the celebration showed students watching performances along with the audience about the rich history and contributions of Africans and African-Americans.
“It goes from stereotypes to liberation,” said Patterson counselor Monique Turner, who helped organize the event. “We want it to be uplifting, powerful and inspirational.”
Students played the roles of familiar cvil rights leaders, but also kings and queens of long ago such as King Mansa Musa, a 14th century sultan of the Mali Empire, and Queen Nefertiti, an Egyptian queen of the same era.
They also honored Shirley Chisholm, who served in the U.S. Congress and ran for president, and Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old who refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., even before Rosa Parks’ famous civil disobedience.
At Rancier Middle School Friday, students honored some hometown heroes.
Billy McGowan, a retired Army colonel and former Communities in Schools site director, addressed students. Also, Leon O’Neal, a 1968 Killeen High School graduate and the first African-American to attend the University of Texas on a football scholarship inspired the audience.
O’Neal said his signing with UT sparked a change in college football and opened doors for many students in the south.
“We must be knowledgeable about our past,” he said. “We all have obstacles to overcome.” He urged students to find a guide to see them through challenges and said his guide was his Christian faith.
McGowan urged students to take their education seriously and to demonstrate positive character traits such as respect to others and responsibility to meet obligations.