SAGINAW, MI--A student from Arthur Hill High School showed off their talents Wednesday, February 23, while performing in the auditorium of the school.
The film, titled "Celebrating Black Excellence," featured performances by three individuals as well as a keynote speech from the Saginaw native and curator.
The program began with a collective performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" led by 11th grader Ja'Leeah Griggs, who encouraged the audience to sing along. Lionel Baldwin Jr., an 11th grader known for his, performed twice during the program. An audience of his peers loved Baldwin's playing, which sparked a standing ovation.
I really liked the joy that I received from the crowd today, Baldwin said. We were Celebrating Black Excellence today, and I feel like I was really keyed into that theme today. Its great to be a part of what we call Black excellence, to be a part of Black History Month, and to be able to make my own thing into Black History Month.
Shelby Vaughn, a senior, read a spoken-word poem titled "Black Magic," which emphasized mental health, and an issue that she said she sometimes overlooks in the Black community.
"Teenagers, this age, they're going through a lot, they don't understand that sometimes these things are normal," Vaughn said. "A lot of people go through these things. I wanted to make them feel more comfortable discussing their mental health."
Vaughn said it was a pleasure to be asked to perform and have the opportunity to demonstrate what she can do.
I feel amazing, I am just glad I can do what I want to do, Vaughn said. People commended me on, clapped me on, and obviously I did something correct. I'm very pleased.
During his speech, Jones discussed Blactiquing and how his interests have led him on different paths to get him where he is now. He encouraged students to ask themselves "why shouldn't it be me?" when it comes to pursue their hobbies.
"It's something about the energy of students and young people, that's a reminder of why it's important to keep talking about history, but also to encourage people, to inform them, as well... that they are the history-makers." Jones said in a statement that "the histories that we'll be celebrating tomorrow are happening today, and so just to be able to try and share those words with anyone, especially with young people, was a fantastic experience."
Michael Baldwin, his ninth-grade brother to Lionel Baldwin, was expected to read a speech, but was also asked to honor the event even though another student was not allowed because of road conditions. He had done something similar in the fall for a sports event, he said, but the level of responsibility in keeping the assembly moving was a step further.
"It wasn't as many people (before) the whole school came to this one. I was extremely nervous when they asked me to attend... this is probably one of the best Black History Month programs I've ever seen in a Saginaw public district school, so I'm glad they were able to pull them off."
Arshen Baldwin, who was co-chaired the event, said she was extremely proud of her sons and fellow students involved in the program.
"I'm always very proud of them, they're extremely talented, and they work hard," she said. "I'm always very proud of them, because they're always willing to stand up and represent not only ourselves and our family, but their school."
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