On Friday, February 15th, PS 84 students celebrated the country’s rich African-American heritage through dance, poetry and the presentation of historical figures. The performances, honoring Black History Month, were coordinated with staff from the Greenpoint Y afterschool program, which has been offering fun, educational activities at the Berry Street school for over 10 years.
Second and third graders opened the show with a “Celebration” of the past, throwing red and green paper flowers in the air. First graders followed with a recitation of a poem honoring all those that serve to inspire them and an oral tribute to women’s rights pioneer Susan B. Anthony. Musical talent was also on ample display. Kindergarteners delivered a rousing performance of “Jombo,” a popular Swahili song, and 4th graders brought down the house with a spirited African dance routine. 1st and 5th and graders closed out the event with step dancing and presentations of famous African-Americans, including Jack Johnson, the first Black boxer to win the world heavyweight championship, and George Washington Carver, “America’s Greatest Farmer.”
Parents and guardians beamed with pride, as did the leaders and counselors who run the afterschool program. Working with the students on everything from costumes to choreography, History/World Culture Y Leader Chrystine Johnson instructed the students on how to step dance and even wrote the poem recited by the first graders. Prevention Y Leader Reina Oronato taught the African dance routine and helped Johnson design and make costumes. Students could also thank Art Y Leader Ann Blackie and Inclusion Specialist Crystal Vega.
“The show went well, we’re always proud of our kids,” said Y Aftershool Program Coordinator Korina Montoya. In contrast to PS 84’s commemoration of Black History in 2012, said Montoya, this year the Y Afterschool program had a more academic focus, thanks to a new grant from the Chicago-based Y-USA, the national resource office for all 2,687 YMCAs in the United States.
In addition to the Y Afterschool program, PS 84 students can now also participate in the Y School, which provides Structure Recess and Move to Improve, a Board of Education curriculum. Other classes include yoga, where students can learn “mindfulness” – techniques to control anxiety and increase relaxation. There are also ESL classes for adults on Saturdays from 9AM – 1PM as well as Spanish classes from 9AM – 12 o’clock noon. Kids accompanying their parents can engage in enrichment classes.