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Community helps WES honor Black History Month

African-American community leaders, officials, parents and guardians gathered at Westside Elementary School on Feb. 24 to celebrate Black History Month in an effort to enhance cultural enrichment for the students.

“The event is to celebrate the black leaders in our community and parental involvement,” said WES Counselor Leslie May.

WES Principal Roshanda Jackson said she was thrilled to be hosting the event aimed at exposing students to diversity.

“We want to celebrate all of our students,” Jackson said. “Mr. (Kyle) Kallhoff has a mission for our system and it’s to ‘redefine the culture,’ and if we are to redefine the culture we have to celebrate every student.”

With February being Black History Month, Jackson and May came together to find a new way to celebrate African American history. After going through several ideas, Jackson and May, along with Demopolis City Schools Board of Education member Carolyn Moore, brought in members of the Demopolis community.

“We’re trying to get that partnership with our community and parents as well,” said Jackson. “We talk about communication and we wanted to get our parents and business leaders to come into the school to meet the students while celebrating black history.”

The teachers sent letters to students’ home to find out who was interested in participating in the event. As responses returned, a list of visitors was compiled. The guests, all African-Americans, shared with students their personal stories and read books. Some even taught traditional African-American spirituals such as “Kumbaya.”

With this being Jackson’s first year working in Demopolis, the principal was really excited to see the community come together for the project.

“I worked in Wilcox County previously and we have diversity here. We have a god mix of Caucasian students, African-American students and ELL (English Language Learners),” said Jackson. “To see this community come together and celebrate our diversity means a lot and it’s going to mean a lot to these kids. It’s going to let them know, especially the African American kids, they are valued.”

Large scale diversity projects won’t end with Black History Month as Jackson said WES plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in September.

“We’re just trying to reach out to our students to let them know we value who they are, which includes their culture,” said Jackson.

This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, March 1, print edition of the Demopolis Times.