Schools celebrate Black History Month (WITH GALLERY)

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Fairland, Burlington host displays, assemblies

February wrapped up yesterday, and local school districts used the month to educate and inspire students through assemblies, trips and displays for Black History Month.

At Fairland West Elementary, assistant principal Sandy Joseph created a display at the school, showcasing news articles and photos of Black residents and natives of the Rome-Proctorville communities.

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Josephs says the school does a program each year, and past years have seen guests, such as poets and a drum and dance performance.

This year, in the display case at the school, the achievements of recent graduates were highlighted, as well as the history of Black families who have contributed to the community through multiple generations

Among those featured in the display are:

Ellen Powell Clayton, who was elected Fairland High School’s Fire Queen in 1969.  She was an honor student, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, member of the high school marching band, and took part in many other activities.  

Tara Lee Alin graduated from Fairland in 1996. She was a cheerleader, track star and was in the National Honor Society.  When she attended Marshall University, she set a Mid-American Conference Girls Track Record and was inducted into the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.  She is now a nurse practitioner at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical School and she was selected to serve on the Governor’s Council for Sickle Cell Anemia Disease.

Alexis Brooke Adkins, a 2017 graduate of Fairland High School was a cheerleader and an honor graduate.  Lexi earned a Yeager Scholarship to Marshall University, where she continues as a cheerleader.  She graduated with honors from the university in 2021 and is now a student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine on full scholarship.  Her immediate plans are to provide medical care on a mission trip to Honduras during spring break.

The Proctorville High School Varsity basketball team of 1943, was coached by Merrill Payne.  Team members were Dillard Bowman, Jimmy Joe Bragg, Clifford Edwards, Charles Henry Powell, William Polley, David Powell, Sr., Johnny Harbor, Wayne Dillon, Bobby Edwards and Kendall Elkins. David Powell, Sr. was the father of Ellen Powell. A photo of the team is included in the display.

• One of the members of the 1923 graduation class of Proctorville High School was Charles Powell.  He was the father of David Powell Sr., Charles Henry Powell and the grandfather of Ellen Powell Clayton.  Charles Powell attended West Virginia State University and was a community leader who served on the Lawrence County Community Action Organization at its inception representing eastern Lawrence County. His graduation announcement from 1923 is included in the display.

Photographs and newspaper clippings were loaned to the school by Suzanne Crews Howard, Cathy Lawson and Dale Burcham.

Meanwhile, Burlington Elementary was been in full Black History mode for the month. The school had 14 speakers and presenters in classrooms throughout February, all focused on Black achievement.  

On Monday, the school was visited by Warren Armstead, a local State Farm insurance agent. Along with his wife, Mary, he gave an uplifting talk, urging students to stay focused and told them that they could do anything they sat out to do.

Following the presentation by the Armsteads, local worship leader Duke Adams sang the hymn “Life Every Voice and Sing” for the students. After he concluded, the school’s second graders sang “This Little Light of Mine,” to which they performed dance and shadow acting behind a backdrop.

This was all a prelude to Tuesday, which was the school’s first ever Black History Month field trip, in which the students visited four historic sites, including the Burlington 37 cemetery and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in Ohio, which is set to undergo a restoration over the coming year.

Throughout the month, the school’s librarian, Harriet Ramsey, also hosted her annual Black History Month display, which featured, as is the case each year, items from Howard, including dolls, books and collectibles on prominent Black Americans such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Bridges and former President Barack Obama. Howard also loaned items for Fairland West’s exhibit.