Black History Month Assembly celebrates artists of color

With performances ranging from poetry to dance, the Black History Month Assembly on Feb. 23 paid homage to African American artists. Led by senior chapel chairs Emma Robinson, Sadde Mohamed, and Irene Vazquez, African American Affinity Group had been planning the assembly since September.

Vazquez opened the assembly with spoken word poetry written by her and senior Maddie McZeal. The poetry expressed the adversity that African Americans face in day-to-day life. Vazquez requested that listeners snap when they heard phrases that resonated with them.

Grace Sanders
Senior Irene Vazquez performs spoken-word poetry.

“For me, one of the most important parts of Black History Month is remembering every African American who did rise up, and getting inspired to rise up ourselves,” McZeal said. “We have and will continue to rise up for black freedom, black pride and black joy.”

Freshman Josh Wilson performed “Worth Fighting For,” a song written by his father Brian Courtney Wilson. The song highlights what Courtney Wilson values in life: culture, motivation and religious faith.

“The song means a lot to me,” Joshua said. “I wanted the message of the song to resonate with listeners. I was representing my culture and something that I believed in.”


Grace Sanders
Keynote speaker Michelle Barnes is the founder of Community Artists’ Collective.

This year’s assembly highlighted how African Americans have influenced U.S. art movements. Themes centered around the connection between art and social activism. 

“This assembly was not intended to highlight challenges so much as to celebrate successes and influences,” faculty sponsor Kimberley Olan said. “We wanted to promote awareness of how African Americans have been a part of the arts in this country.”

Keynote speaker Michelle Barnes discussed notable black artists from the 19th and 20th centuries and their impact on the U.S. arts scene. Barnes founded the Community Artists’ Collective, a Midtown non-profit focused on promoting and preserving African American cultural traditions. In 2009, Barnes was honored at the State of Art by African Americans reception held at Texas Southern University.

“She gave us a history of our heritage and how we can be empowered,” freshman Subi Farayibi said. “She showed us how people before us have made significant changes and have created a path for us.”

Grace Sanders
AAAG members dance to a remix of “Rise Up”.

After Barnes’ speech, AAAG performed a group dance to the MSTR ROGERS remix of “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Senior Maddie McZeal and her sophomore sister Lena choreographed the dance.

“I wanted my choreography to reflect all that I felt the song stood for,” McZeal said. “It’s about the struggle and a pain of being black in a country that has such a painful history regarding race, but also the joy and fun in the African American community, in our music and in our dancing.”