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PRMS celebrates black history, its 10th anniversary

These performers from the Oneaka Dance Company from Charlotte demonstrate African dance. (Below) Porter Ridge Cheerleaders entertain the crowd. Union County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis talks about her time as principal at the middle school.

Porter Ridge Middle School had a unique opportunity this month to celebrate not only Black History Month, but also the school’s history, as well.

In addition to honoring diversity, the school also celebrated its 10th year as a Union County Public school.

Union County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis, Porter Ridge’s first principal, explained how the school’s name was chosen and its school colors. She also recognized all the current teachers who were there when the school first opened.

“Porter Ridge is in fine shape because of the teachers you have in this school, your leadership and your families at home,” Ellis said.

Several former Porter Ridge Middle principals were also invited as special guests, including Dr. Bashawn Harris, Sarah Starr, Kim Chinnis and Tim Connor.

Staff and students offered a variety of entertainment during the celebration, a presentation that was repeated several times during the day for the different grade levels.

The entertainment included students performing patriotic songs, the school’s sign language class performing the Negro National Anthem, performances by the Porter Ridge Cheerleaders, the Porter Ridge Chorus, and the Porter Ridge Band, and a dance performance by the school’s Spanish Club.

A Porter Ridge history was depicted through a power point presentation while a painting by Kirsten Durbin was on display.

“Each year we recognize the achievements of people of color, not only in the United States, but around the world,” said CTE teacher Christine Courtney. “Our arts department and our students have worked hard to prepare a variety of cultural experiences for our students.”

Samuel Ryan, a sixth-grade Porter Ridge Middle School math teacher, has organized a black history celebration at the school for the past five of the nine years he has taught at the school.

“This is a celebration of cultures,” Ryan said. “That is what Black History Month is all about. We have different individuals who presented today. It wasn’t just all African Americans. We try to seek and embrace all cultures, all people, as we seek to achieve the success of Porter Ridge. That’s our mission, to see that all of our kids succeed.”

The annual black history component is geared toward an international focus. “It gives our children an opportunity to see the multicultural aspects of not only our community, but also of the world,” said the school’s principal Lee Casey Jr. “It really reaches that globalization component, and it celebrates Porter Ridge itself and the long traditions that we’ve had in our short period of time.”

One of the highlights of the celebration was a performance by Oneaka Dance Company from Charlotte.

“We thought it would be good for the students to see African dance culture,” Ryan said. “Their dance is a lesson to show how we, as a people, not just African Americans, can celebrate our culture, our ideas, through dancing without speaking.”
By the sound of applause and the look of enthusiasm on many student faces, the dance was definitely popular.

“My favorite part of this event was the African dancing, because it’s nice to see the African Heritage,” said Shariah Gaddy, 13, an eighth grader, who also moderated the event. “I learned that different heritages dance differently. I really like it. People got to see how they dance in Africa and what they do for fun.”

Gaddy said she feels it is important to know one’s heritage. “It’s important to know where your ancestors come from and what they’ve been through,” Gaddy said. “It’s good to connect with your African heritage. I also enjoyed the Negro Spirituals that were performed.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 27, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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