Celebrating Black History Month at Jet Jackson Recreation Center

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –The Black History Month program held at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center Fri., Feb. 26 went off without a hitch. Parents packed into the gymnasium for an evening of entertainment, fine dining and of course, a history lesson.

“Our culture is filed with amazing black people that journeyed, strived and created a foundation that allowed all of us here tonight to feel worthy and proud of who we are as people and where we come from,” said Narasipar Srinivasa, who gave the welcome.

The children brought to life great historical figures such as Madam CJ Walker, Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver. They stepped up to the microphone and recited short biographies of 15 African Americans in history and ones that are making history such as President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Janet Jackson. Even a pint-sized Jet Jackson made an appearance.

Every recreation center Supervisor I Barbara Walton is assigned to, the black history program follows. This was the third year the program was held at the center formerly known as Wildwood.

To ensure its success, Walton divvied out assignments. Alison Srinivasa had the task of making sure the children with speeches were ready to get in front of a crowd and talk about their assigned historical figure.

Tanequa Harden choreographed a dance number for the tykes to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White,” while Teyia Brown made sure they were stepping in time to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Even parents got in on the action when the littles ones pulled them out of the audience to join them on the dance floor.

This year’s showstopper was a fashion show made possible by Andrecia Simmons. She had the children walking the catwalk like they were at Fashion Week in New York.  The divas and dons tore the makeshift runway up!

For about a month and a half, the staff worked tirelessly to pull the program together, and judging by the smiles on the parents’ faces, it was a huge success.

Walton makes sure the history program happens each year because she loves to watch the children come out of their shells and open up. Once a shy and withdrawn child herself, she uses history, music and dance to motivate, stimulate and actuate the youth.

A delicious meal of fried and baked chicken, meatballs, rice and vegetables was made possible by the fundraising efforts of the children. They sold candy grams for Valentine’s Day, hot chocolate when it was cold and hot dogs to anyone who was willing to part with a dollar.

Next year’s show promises to be more spectacular. Even though it’s a year away, mark your calendars for the last Friday in February so that you won’t miss seeing history come alive through the eyes of children.

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