Reservoir High School Celebrates Black History

Harriet Beckham LeeHarriet Beckham Lee is the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) liaison at Reservoir High School. Before joining Reservoir, she served River Hill and Marriotts Ridge high schools in her BSAP role. Here Lee blogs about Reservoir’s commitment to honoring black history throughout the school year.

Each year, Reservoir High School’s theme for the year is Black History 365, with a specific enrichment.  At Reservoir we believe black history is American history.  Therefore, all throughout the year we encourage our entire school body to participate and become engaged with school-wide cultural and ethnic events. This year, we are celebrating Black History 365: Believe.

To begin the 2016-2017 school year, a partnership began in October between Reservoir’s English Department and BSAP to encourage and support students to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. essay-writing contest.  Throughout Dr. King’s historic speech “I Have a Dream” is the belief for a better community and a better world. Three students, Eugenie Choi, Yasmine Allen and Tiffany Hooker, participated in the contest and received good luck tokens from the school.

In November, students attended a BSAP college and career readiness trip to Howard University and Bowie State University, two historically black colleges and universities. This began with a preliminary assignment for the 60 students to research notable statistics about each school, such as retention, acceptance and graduation rates, and financial costs.

The college visit trip ended with the students completing a survey and signing on to attend Reservoir’s December REAL TALK, a collaboration between Student Services and BSAP. This program hosts alumni to return to provide students with REAL and courageous conversations about preparing for and attending college. There were 12 alumni who returned to share their suggestions and experiences.

All Reservoir clubs and organizations have been invited to share what they “Believe” with one another by participating in the “We Believe” poster expression showcase.  Posters were prepared in January and will be laminated and hung on the first floor bulletin board.  No doubt each club’s members had some soul-searching conversations while preparing them.

The band’s drum line players, under the direction of David Bacon, were showcased during Gator Break on Feb. 1, beating out tunes familiar to us all.

The Reservoir media center joined in the Black History Month salute by highlighting novels and other texts authored by or written about blacks. By being displayed, students are further encouraged to celebrate the heritage of African Americans.

On Feb. 15 during Gator Break, the Reservoir step team, under the direction of Marinda Williams, shared a melodic stepping rhythm that echoes “Belief” in oneself.

Freshman Stephan Khangaa introduced the video “Lift Every Voice and Sing, The Balm in Gilead” to the students during Gator Break on Feb. 22. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,”reverently referred to as the black national anthem, was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900.

Elder Earl Owens, chair of education for the Council of Elders of the Black Community of Howard County, was the featured speaker on Feb. 24 in the school’s media center.  Owens shared information about African-American integration in Howard County.

Reservoir’s school-wide assembly on Feb. 28 showcases our diverse student body while sharing the message that you should believe in yourself–in who you are and your dreams.  There will be individual performances, along with participating student classes and organizations including Jazz Band, Best Buddies, dance, Los Gators Latinos, African dancers, and video monologues by Alpha Achievers, Student Government Association, Delta Scholars, and Black/African Leadership Union.

The school-wide assembly features parts of the play “House of Mirrors,” written by Jacquelyne Jenkins originally for the HCPSS Summer Institute and co-directed with Lezlie Hatcher. In the play, a young black man (performed by Marcus Campbell), who was often in trouble in school and who didn’t take advantage of support from his teachers and friends, has a dream that his invention will change many lives. Ms. Jensen (performed by Stephannie Joseph) yearns to learn more about the product, and Nicole (performed by Taylor “Drew” Henry) is supportive of the main character in every way.

Then in March, Reservoir Scholars and BSAP will offer all students an opportunity to meet and begin preliminary discussions about what was happening in history during John F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidency.  The discussions will lay the groundwork for viewing the movie “Hidden Figures” on April 21 in the school’s auditorium.  Charlene Allen, coordinator of leadership development, and Shannon Keeny, facilitator of cultural proficiency, will lead follow up discussions in March and April.

African–American seniors will enjoy a time to reflect and catch up during their senior activity “The Best is Yet to Come” in May.  Seniors will receive their heritage stoles from Elder Towanda Brown as she provides them with words of wisdom during the event and performs a semi-traditional African donning ceremony.

There’s always a piece of black history happening at the Swamp!

GatorsReservoir Principal Patrick Saunderson commends Lee’s work, saying “Ms. Harriet Beckham Lee is an integral member of the Reservoir community, serving as a wonderful resource for students, colleagues and families. She is known for her wisdom, grace, dedication, calm demeanor and positive outlook. The programs she has created have greatly impacted our school and become part of the fabric, the tradition and the rich culture that is Reservoir. Ms. Lee is truly a treasure!”

Lee’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.