Union Celebrates Black History Month through Music

Union Celebrates Black History Month through Music
Posted on 02/28/2019
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students singing at Union's Black History month assemblyStudents at Union Elementary taught a valuable history lesson through music this week.

“In the classroom, it’s easy to get caught up in the more technical side of music like rhythms and instruments,” said first year Union music teacher Delaney Roberts. “But students aren’t always exposed to the historical side of music.”

In honor of Black History Month, Roberts noted that nearly all popular, modern-day music can be traced back to genres that originated in African American culture. With that in mind, she developed a unit that had every grade level at Union studying a different musical era of African American history. Their work came to life in the form of an all-school musical performance that chronologically presented the history of traditional African American music. Students representing their grade level shared with their peers some of the facts they'd learned about their genre, as it related to African American history. 

From blues, jazz and hip hop to genres inspired by slavery and the Civil Rights movement, selections took students, staff and visitors through African American history. Songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” for example, gave students the opportunity to “code” music, or interpret the hidden messages within their lyrics.

The program also gave two sixth-graders, Scott Nicolai and Caden Powels, the opportunity to pursue their passion for rap music. They were inspired by Principal Kyle Lichey to put their talent to work by first writing and then performing a song at the all-school assembly.

"I hope my classmates took away that coming together as a community is one of the most important things in life," said Nicolai, who said the duo's lyrics were inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

"The message we were trying to get across was that you shouldn't treat any race different from another," Powels said. 

Lichey closed the program with a challenge to every Union student: "The most important thing you can do is greet someone and make them feel like they belong. Think about how you can spread love and positivity throughout your whole school community," he said. 

A month-long trivia program further compounded the lessons students took away from music class. Assistant Principal Michele Plummer has been the driving force behind a daily fact and question shared on morning announcements. Sharing non-traditional facts like, “Wonder Woman had a black twin” has helped catch students’ attention. She follows up each fact with a question that challenges students to explore a topic on their own and then turn in their responses for a daily drawing.

Union incorporated similar activities when celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month back in the fall.

“It’s all about coming together and building community,” Lichey said. “And you do that by understanding one another’s backgrounds and appreciating them.”