By Sarah Plummer
Park Middle School’s Black History Month celebration Thursday was a powerful program about believing, achieving and succeeding.
Guest speaker and Beckley native Damon Hamby, manager at Raleigh County Educators Federal Credit Union and associate pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Lanark, spoke candidly and directly to the students, who were completely engaged in his talk.
“I came to testify to you about believing, achieving and succeeding. This is the legacy our African American heroes have graced us with. They have given us the ability to know that all things are possible to them that believe,” he said.
In addition to diversity, black history and racism, Hamby spoke to the students about peer pressure, budding sexuality and thug culture.
“I don’t care what color you are, you are going to have lots of trouble and lots of temptations on your road to success because there is an element in our culture that wants to keep you from graduating high school. There is an element in society that wants you to define yourself by your sexuality or by thug mentality, but those are dead-end roads that will not lead to your victory,” he told them.
To the young males in the room, Hamby said, “Your manhood is not defined by how macho you are. Your manhood is defined by how responsible you are.”
Mentioning trend-setting 1990s rapper Tupac, he reminded them, “Tupac was killed at age 25 before he could ever become what he was created to be. Peer pressure will kill you faster than enemy gunfire. You will never be all that you can be as long as you are following the crowd.”
And to the females in the room, he said their mind and life’s work are more important than how they look.
“Young ladies, your womanhood is not defined by how sexy you are. When we talk about historical females who really made an impact in this world, nobody remembers if they looked cute in their bathing suits … What we remember are their brilliant minds, hearts and their passion for change.”
Park Middle teacher Pamela Moore made a special and surprise recognition award to Miller Hall, Raleigh County Schools director of secondary education, for possessing “character, fortitude and for making significant contributions to our community in all that he does.”
“Here at Park we believe leadership is the ultimate measure, when, in moments of chaos and peril, you can still stand firm in your beliefs,” she said.
Hall said his work is not about receiving awards, but about Raleigh County’s youth.
“It’s about our young people coming to school every day and doing the right thing. Sometimes students make negative choices — I still make negative choices sometimes — but we need to help our young people redeem themselves each day,” he said.
Hall commended Park Middle Choir Director Quincy Madison’s work and discipline with his students, which was evident in their conduct and professionalism during their performance.
The choir sang “Siyahamba,” a South African Freedom Song; “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing”; and The Black Eyed Peas’ song “Where is the Love?”
Family and Consumer Science Teacher Sue Meadow showed off a quilt students made. The students researched the meaning behind individual square designs on the Underground Railroad. For instance, the “Shoo, Fly” square design signaled for travelers to scatter in many different directors and meet at a predetermined location.
Students also recited Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and recited some of their original poetry about influential black Americans. Ashlee Lane’s poem was about Mike Tyson, Haley Mills’ about Gabrielle Douglas, and Mason Stanley’s about Jimi Hendrix.