The (mis)education of CHS
The air was electric during the Martin Luther King day assembly on Jan. 17 as students watched a beautifully executed event planned by CHS’s Black Student Union (BSU). The hour consisted of three musical performances, one esteemed speaker and a collection of historical facts presented by teacher Cindy Haidu-Banks and members of BSU. The theme of the day was based on the University of Michigan’s theme, The (Mis)education of US.
“We wanted to put a more specific to our school spin on it and so a lot of it was focusing on making it applicable to our school and what would engage students here,” said Octavia Anderson, a senior, BSU member and one of the two key student planners.
The day had the same student-led components that make CHS special. As with past events, CHS jazz musicians opened and closed with performances. Both BSU and the American Sign Language (ASL) class played a big part in organizing and planning.
After opening remarks from Dean Marci and the two event MCs, students Sophia Scarnecchia and Octavia Anderson, Haidu-Banks presented the first historical fact of the afternoon. She spoke about Marian Anderson, a gifted singer from the 1930s who spread her voice all around the world. Marian Anderson was blocked from performing at Constitution Hall in 1939 by the Daughters of the American Revolution because of her race. Instead, she performed at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same location as MLK’s I Have a Dream speech that same year.
Next, the ASL class performed a tear-jerking presentation of Lift Every Voice and Sing, accompanied by vocals and music from the CHS jazz band and student Nora Berry. The performance received an ecstatic round of applause from the audience.
The Eastern Michigan University Gospel Choir then performed Total Praise. The EMU Choir performed twice, later leading CHS students in a sing-a-long of Lean On Me to end the ceremony.
More history by Haidu-Banks followed, this time about the Indian boarding school policy. The Indian boarding school policy was an effort by the U.S. government to “Kill the Indian, save the man to implement cultural genocide,” Haidu-Banks said. This was done through government-funded boarding schools in the U.S. Indian children were abducted by government agents and sent to these schools.
“They suffered physical, cultural and spiritual abuse,” Haidu-Banks said. “They were neglected and experienced treatment that in many cases would constitute torture. They were told their culture was dead.”
Stephen E. Gay is an associate professor of internal medicine, medical director for critical care support services, and the assistant dean for medical school admissions at the University of Michigan. Dr. Gay, who speaks frequently for the U of M, studies other speakers for help in his own speeches.
“When you start to look at great speakers and speeches, it begins and ends with Reverend King’s I Have a Dream speech,” Gay said. Gay’s favorite line in the speech is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In this line, Gay sees Reverend King looking towards the future, being aspirational and saying that we must be defined by our character.
In Dr. Gay’s line of work as a dean of admissions, he sees applicants’ character as more than just accomplishments. He believes that character is defined by what we have to go through to get where we are.
“You have one incredible advantage if you don’t have much to carry, you can go farther,” Gay said. “You can begin to create, to change, to define, to have a greater influence on the world because you can go farther.”
Dr. Gay was followed by more American history from BSU students and Haidu-Banks. These pieces of history, especially ones often kept out of American textbooks, all fit into the theme of the (mis)education of US. They gave a glimpse into the vast world of purposefully forgotten American history. Especially on MLK day, but also throughout the year, it is important to take some time to educate yourself on U.S. history.