Students write, act out their skit

Published 9:53pm Friday, March 15, 2013

ORRVILLE — Nearly two weeks after the anniversary celebration of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery, fourth and fifth grade students at Salem Elementary School made those pieces of history come alive as they wrote and performed a series of four skits entitled, “Moments from the Civil Rights Movement,” in front of a packed audience Friday.

With the help of a grant from the Alabama Arts Council in Montgomery, artist in residence Jonathan Blanchard spent two weeks at Salem preparing the students for the play. Last week Blanchard said that elements of the civil rights movement were integrated into the students’ math and reading curriculum, and the students began writing the play last Friday.

“[After giving] them a healthy base of information, they could start writing,” Blanchard said of the students. “You’re in 1965. You’re at a rally after the South Carolina, Orange County massacre. How would you feel? What would you say?”

Questions like these spurred the students to compose skits that dealt with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the march from Selma to Montgomery and more.

“The biggest issue that we have in the African American community is the lack of knowledge of oneself,” Blanchard said. “It’s important for them to know about these things because it builds character, it builds pride — therefore it builds integrity.”

Fifth grade student Jared Edwards played a civil rights leader in one of the skits and said the experience was one he really enjoyed.

“[I was] one of the people who was on the front lines and fought for our right to vote,” Edwards said, noting that his favorite part of the two week immersion in the history of the civil rights movement was connecting with the people from the past. “I learned that we didn’t always have as many rights as we have today.”

Edwards said it was really exciting to write and perform a play in front of his schoolmates, especially as a fifth grader.

Shardelia Lagon, a fourth grade student said she also learned a lot this week.

“I got the part of Angela Davis. Everyone helped me think of something for the play,” she said. “I learned about civil rights and what can happen and things they did back in the day.”

Lagon said because of this experience, she could definitely see herself continuing in theater and doing more things with the arts.

“We’re very grateful to have the opportunity to provide the arts for our students here at Salem,” Karen Grimes, Salem librarian and arts coordinator said.

Grimes said being able to have an event like this is a valuable hands-on experience for these students.

“I think our students have been so far removed from the time era and what the generations before them have gone through,” she said. “This gives them a hands-on feel of the injustice and the imbalance of the way things were.”

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