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Celebration of culture
Midway Middles show touts history, talent
WEB 0217 MMS culture 2
Students re-enact the 1955 exchange between civil rights activist Rosa Parks and a white bus driver when Parks refused to surrender her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus during the MMS multicultural program. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

Midway Middle School students brought history to life Thursday during the annual multicultural program, “The Road to Freedom: Contributions of Many and Justice for All.”

The show, which featured about 100 students, was a collaborative effort with performances from the school’s chorus, step team and African dance group, as well as individual students.

Science teacher Anthony Johnson, who is on the committee for the multicultural program, said student performers have been rehearsing since December.

“The entire production is student-driven,” Johnson said. “You just have teachers there who are saying yes or no.”
Three students opened the show with welcomes in German, Spanish and English before writer, producer and director Theresa White, who is a teacher, and student narrators introduced many acts by explaining their historical significance.

The production was driven by the storyline that a young African-American girl asked her grandparents for help in outlining African-American history for a school paper, and their conversation also explained the events that inspired the performances.

“The great thing about it is what you will see are standards that are actually being taught with the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels, as far as social studies,” Johnson said. “They now get a chance to view that, so not just read about it and learn in the classroom, but also to act it out.”

Johnson led the chorus in an a capella rendition of “We Shall Overcome” before a student dressed as President Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation. Next, the step team wowed the crowd with its rhythmic performance in tribute to the 54th Regiment, the first African-American unit to serve in the Civil War.

Student Diamond Richardson sang “Get Here” by Oleta Adams in a military tribute, and the African dance group gave a tribe-inspired performance.

“This is a time where our students are able to display their talents and things that they’re good at in front of our student body, as well as dignitaries that we’ve invited,” Johnson said.

Student Tyriek Holmes received a standing ovation for his performance of “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke before students re-enacted key incidents in the civil rights movement, such as the desegregation of schools and the implementation of the Voting Rights Act. Another student read the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes.

The show also featured lighter moments, with students performing “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang,  “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena and the Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga.”

A number of dignitaries attended, including Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, board of education Chairwoman Lily Baker and three Liberty County commissioners.

Before the show, Commissioner Donald Lovette, founder of Love-It Productions, said the show is important because it celebrates a rich history, especially in the Coastal Georgia area, in a way that enhances children’s performance skills.

“Any show that involves youth, the training they get and the public speaking, articulation … that can help guide them through life,” he said. “You just never know where life is going to take you.

“As for the educational side, … African-American history, we can never learn enough,” Lovette said. “Teachers only have so much time to do that in the classroom, but doing it in an entertainment kind of setting helps get the message across in a much lighter way, yet the message is being received by the students.”

Principal Debra Frazier, who offered closing remarks, also spoke about the program’s significance before the show.

“I know many pause to recognize African-American History Month, but we want to recognize all cultures,” Frazier said. “It’s important here at Midway because we have many different cultures here, being that we’re the school that services Fort Stewart.”

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