If you had walked through the hallways of Laredo Middle School on Feb. 28, you might have run into some well-known figures in the civil rights movement including Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You might have encountered champion boxer Muhammad Ali or Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner Kersey. You could have struck up a conversation with actress Dorothy Dandridge.
It was all part of the culmination of Black History Month at Laredo. Throughout the month, students studied famous and lesser-known figures in African American history. After delving into the lives of those historical figures and learning about their struggles and accomplishments, students had the option of portraying some of those people in a living history museum in the school’s hallways.
Eighth-grader Ally Pham, who is female and Vietnamese, portrayed civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Some people said, ‘You’re not black. Why are you doing this?’ And I explained that I’m supporting other cultures and races,” said Pham, who has always held Dr. King in high regard. “He’s just one of my favorite people. He teaches us a lot, how we should respect others, how we should all be equal and be caring for each other.”
Nada Seriu-Aigbokhan portrayed Zelda Wynne Valdez, who is not as prominent in the annals of Black history as famous athletes and activists.
“Zelda Wynne Valdez was the first African-American fashion designer, tailor and retailer,” explained Seriu-Aigbokhan, who loves fashion herself. “Having a living history museum helps us learn more about people who are not as popular in history but still did a lot.”
Math teacher Alisa Thomas, who helped organize the event, said the museum was a resounding success.
“The kids had fun and learned. They were able to put themselves in the shoes of amazing African Americans in our history, even though they may not have been African American themselves. They ‘walked a mile in someone else's shoes’ and now know more about African- American history,” Thomas said.
Laredo also held a “My Legacy” Essay contest, which gave students the opportunity to reflect on their own legacy and how they will be remembered. Eighth-grader Fatma Huer Al Duien, who enjoys writing, was selected as the overall winner.
“Our legacies are the flakes of our very soul we sprinkle behind us as we walk out the door for the last time,” Huer Al Duien wrote.
In her essay, Huer Al Duien explained that her English teacher will probably remember her as a strong writer, while her gym teacher will likely remember her as injury-prone. She also wrote about how she thinks her classmates will remember her.
“I haven’t accomplished anything special, but everything you remember about me makes me me in your eyes… That is me. That is my legacy.”