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City and schools honor Black History Month

Mayor recognizes two residents, students learn about prominent African Americans

Sandra Smith was honored for her work in the community.

For Black History Month, Hoboken students have been learning about prominent African Americans past and present recently. Also, Mayor Dawn Zimmer presented proclamations honoring two citizens for their work and dedication to the community.
At the Feb. 14 City Council meeting, Zimmer and the council honored lifelong city resident and activist Sandra Smith and Hoboken High School Student E’Nigel Owusu-Ansah.
“Sandra, we are very excited to celebrate all that you have done for Hoboken,” said Zimmer. “You’ve raised four children and have 10 grandchildren, and you are known as someone in the community who goes above and beyond for the community.”
Along with other Hoboken women, Smith started West Side Women, an organization focused on opportunities and programming for children and young adults living in the Housing Authority buildings.
Zimmer said Smith not only attends Rebuild by Design (federal flooding plan) meetings and is part of the Hoboken branch of the NAACP, but also teaches crochet to senior citizens.
“You do so much for Hoboken and we just wanted to thank you,” said Zimmer.
“I just do my best,” Smith said. “I love people and try to help.”
“E’Nigel is an incredibly hardworking young man,” said Zimmer’s proclamation to Owusu-Ansah. “He has maintained a 4.0 GPA at Hoboken High School and he has had perfect attendance. He has been extremely dedicated and is in several extra-curricular activities.”
Some of those activities include the Harvard Model Congress, in which students from across the country met in San Francisco and created and passed legislation.
According to Zimmer, Owusu-Ansah worked to reform Social Security while participating in San Francisco last year.
Of Owusu-Ansah, Zimmer said, “You are a role model for everyone in Hoboken.”
Ansah said, “I would just like to say I am very happy and honored be here.” He thanked his family. “I wouldn’t be here without [them.]”


According to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerald Fitzhugh, the city’s public school teachers created lesson plans and activities to educate students on the meaning of Black History Month.
They learned about Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Scott Joplin, and the group Run DMC.
At Brandt Primary School, students read “All the Colors of the Earth,” according to Fitzhugh “which discusses all the different skin tones found in the world.”
“The teacher will further illustrate the point by doing a mini-science lesson utilizing one brown egg and one white egg,” he said, “with the goal to communicate that although we may look different on the outside we are the same on the inside.”
He said students also had discussions on equality in which the teacher will educate students on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
They read “If a Bus Could Talk,” Faith Ringgold’s story about Rosa Parks. Students then created pictures of school buses and read “Tar Beach,” by the same author. Students were prompted to create their own artwork based on the book’s illustrations. These were displayed on a classroom smart board for students to critique.
In addition, kindergarten students received Black History Month celebratory books that were read weekly and given writing prompts regarding people of focus. First grade students received a variety of daily prompts regarding an African American person each day during morning announcements.
At Calabro Elementary School, the whole student population had a morning meeting on Feb. 3 to kickstart the month, in which students learned about the purpose and history behind black history month.

From Jackie to Duke Ellington

Classroom teachers taught “grade appropriate activities” and physical education classes taught about famous African American Athletes such as Jackie Robinson, who faced and broke down racial barriers in professional sports. He spent some of his time in Jersey City.
In music, students critically listened, analyzed, and composed written responses to jazz pieces by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie.
At Connors Elementary School students learned about notable African American Figures in society and participated in the Hoboken Branch of the NAACP’s Black History Essay Contest.
The school also had African-American Art on display in the school library by Artist in Residence Sherry Shine.
And on Feb. 28, Connors students will participate in a program to honor leaders of the African American community through the arts, including a tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the America’s first African-American president Barack Obama, the late Maya Angelou, and many others.
The students will dance, sing, and recite poetry and music “That will highlight African American History and culture creating awareness for all,” said Fitzhugh.
At Wallace Elementary School, students celebrated notable historic African Americans, according to Fitzhugh.
He said, “Students read many nonfiction, expository texts regarding the lives of past and present influential African American figures and creating a biographies on one selected individual.”
Fifth grade music students at Wallace studied jazz and blues and younger students began every class by hearing about a prominent black musician including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Scott Joplin, and the hiphop group Run DMC.
Students at Wallace also learned about the Civil Rights Movement and segregation.
Fitzhugh said “The National Honors Society, Hispanic Culture Club, and Student Council offered several activities for Black History Month.”
He said during personal growth periods, historical movies were shown followed by discussions, the National Honors Society hosted its annual Unity Luncheon with speakers, and inspirational posters were created and displayed through the school.
Fitzhugh said “weekly readings on the intercom system highlighting notable African American members of society as well as their note worthy accomplishments were also read.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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