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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Tuitt Kids Have a Blast with Black History

Third graders spread the word about black inventors.Youngsters from Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School sang songs, recited poetry, identified local produce — or tried to — offered prayers, and, in general, had a grand time Friday morning celebrating black history.

From the opening prayer by Pastor Roy Joseph to principal Carolyn Archer’s closing appreciation, the little green stage in the school courtyard was filled with the energy and excitement of 127 performers, from 5 to 9 years old.

The program was set in motion by masters of ceremony Shaquanya Lewis and Amachi Brown, of Lisa Evans’ third-grade class. And they were pros. Perfectly poised, they handled the introduction of each class, welcoming them to the stage, praising the performances, and passing the microphone from one to the other.

The two never let an act exit the stage without, "let us give them a round of applause," or, occasionally, "now, let’s hear it again." And each class, with no encouragement, ended its performance with a practiced little bow to the audience.

Louis Taylor kept the beat on his keyboard throughout the ceremony, with bits of humor thrown in, backing up an agricultural demonstration by Kamohoo with "Farmer in the Dell." Kamohoo brought forward a veritable salad of bright vegetables, asking the students to define each one. Eggplants and tomatoes were easy, but the less common herb plants just brought a laugh, and a shake of the head.

Kindergartners from Marysharon Marin’s class stood tall, or as tall as three-footers stand, looked to Marin for instruction, and recited from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech, followed by a rousing version of the song, not missing a beat: "I have a dream/ a song to sing/ to help me cope with anything…."

Marin, who has taught for 30 years, is an old hand at teaching the kids the song and poem. "It only takes a few weeks at that age," she said later. "They imitate inflections quick. It’s a great age to teach language."

The children trooped onto the stage, sometimes engaging the audience in a sing-a-long, as with the second graders’ "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

First-graders, holding pictures of famous black personalities, recited their achievements, asking the audience "Who am I?" The first one, Jane E. Tuitt, threw people off because she was from St. Croix, but the last one fooled nobody. "I was born in 1961 in Hawaii, I was a U.S. senator, I….." "Obama, it’s Obama!" came the hearty response from kids and audience alike.

Lisa Evans’ third-graders took the stage, most sitting in a semi-circle, while one student began a story. "A little boy named Theo, asked his mother one day what it would be like if we had no black people," whereupon the students got up to take the microphone to talk about inventions we wouldn’t have.

"My mom went to get the ironing board, but there was no ironing board," said one, "my mom went to comb and brush her hair, but there was no brush and no comb." The list continued: it includes the pencil sharpener, the automobile’s automatic gears, and, speaking of traffic, one youngster showed a cardboard traffic light, invented by Garrett Augustus Moran.

More well-known were scientist George Washington Carver’s discoveries of 300-plus peanut products, and Lewis Latimer’s role in the development of the electric light bulb. He was the only black member of Thomas Edison’s research team.

"It worked well," said Evans. "It was just right, each of the 18 students got a role."

Program coordinator Cuthbert Howell was everywhere, guiding the youngsters on and off stage, conducting from the front row. He appeared pleased with the hour-long performance.

"Not too long," he said with a smile, "because you know, they are kids."

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