Brooklyn’s Roberto Clemente P.S. 13 celebrated Black History Month with a celebration that included a virtual trip to Senegal with images from Goree Island and its infamous “Door of No Return,” interpretations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream, musical performances and a salute to the Amsterdam News, which the students have incorporated into their daily learning experience through the Newspapers in Education (NIE) program.
The fifth grade students of class 5-500 presented a skit and panel discussion on the infamous stop-and-frisk policy that was heavily featured in the Amsterdam News; they acted out a scene and discussed the pros and cons of the controversial tactic that targets Black and Latino men and youth. More than 531,000 were subjected to stop-and-frisk just last year, with many wrongly targeted because of their race.
The student and their teachers shared the importance of the AmNews as a valuable social resource and learning tool in the classroom.
“Today’s Black History Month performance tries to talk about history from Africa to the present day,” said teacher Sharon Kennedy Frost, who organized the event. “What was surprising was that a class came to me that was reading the Amsterdam News and said that they wanted to be a part of it, and they had planned what they wanted to do. They wanted to have a panel discussion on stop-and-frisk. I was like, ‘Whoa, fifth graders want to have a panel discussion?’ I don’t even teach this class but I took the time because these are youths that are talking about topics that concern our people. They put it all together and they are excited to do it and I’m happy to facilitate that,” Frost said. “Hopefully, it will encourage them to be active citizens in our society,” she added. The enthusiastic group of fifth graders shared how they are using the newspaper to do just that.
The stop-and-frisk panel featured fifth graders Reese Roberts, who acted as narrator, and panelists Renaldo Bermudez, Jahkai Smith and Kayla Smith. They followed actors Angel Cole, Nataliya Douglas, Anika Mayers, Shenell Miller, Jake Nimmons and Omar Waterton, who acted out a stop-and-frisk scenario articulating the fear and anxiety of being randomly caught off guard by the police and subjected to the humiliating practice, bringing a front-page news story into the Black History Month observance. The students commented to the AmNews on their fear of the unfair practice and on the newspaper’s help in preparing them for facing such things in the future.
Jahkai Smith said, “I’ve enjoyed using the Amsterdam News because it teaches about current events and what’s going on in our Black community not only in East New York, but all around the world and all around New York. That teaches us a big lesson and it really helps us in the future, [so] when we go to get jobs, we know what’s going to happen. We know how to prepare ourselves for the world outside. That’s how we use the Amsterdam News to our advantage.”
Nasir McGeachy, who moderated the discussion said, “I enjoy the newspaper because it gives [you] so many articles of variety [about] your neighborhood and other places. There are specific parts that help us in the classroom and help us express what’s happening in the world.”
Roberts said, “I think it’s very beneficial because it provides valid information [about things] that happen in society, like stop-and-frisk and the racism that continues in our present day. It also teaches us and prepares us for the future, [so that] when we’re going out into the world, [we know] what to expect and what’s coming our way.”
Kayla Smith said, “I like the history pages a lot because it shows history in a really fun way. It makes me happy to know about my ancestors and what they fought for.”
Fifth grade teacher Dena Pascall shared in the enthusiasm of her students.
“I started using the Amsterdam News last year when it was first introduced into the school. I started using it in fourth grade,” she told the AmNews. “The students started liking it so much because it had so much relevant information and useful information that we started using it in conjunction with the textbooks. And now that we’re in fifth grade, we actually use it instead of the textbooks. I started integrating it with science and social studies. I mainly use it for writing and reading, and they love it. Every day we get homework from it. One of my students from one of the charter schools came to me the first time she got homework and said, ‘Miss Pascall, I love using the Amsterdam News so much, and my mom was so impressed because it actually causes me to do research more than the ordinary textbooks,’” Pascall said.
“I love using it and my students love using it. It’s very resourceful. It gives information about small communities–especially communities like East New York–that you won’t find in other papers. I love the history feature. It definitely helps the fifth graders going into sixth grade,” she concluded.