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April , 2018
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By Chinta Strausberg

Scores of enthusiastic mostly Saint Sabina Academy students recently played the roles of civil rights heroes like that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Oprah during their first African American Wax Museum exhibit but also the great-granddaughter of a man who once danced with the great choreographer, Katherine Dunham, got a first-hand lesson in her own history.

Sponsored by The Ark of Saint Sabina, the event was held at 7800 S. Racine which is a part of Saint Sabina Church headed by Father Michael L. Pfleger.

The students lined up around the huge gym at The Ark each holding pictures of the civil rights leaders they portrayed including a mock button on a piece of paper that when pushed prompted the students to recite the history of the hero they represented.

Chelsea Pruitt, a sixth grade student at the Wendell E. Green elementary school, was pleasantly surprised when she saw Sharese Scott, 12, a 7th grade student at Saint Sabina playing the role of Katherine Dunham who once danced with her great-grandfather, 97-year-old Deacon Lester Goodman, who still talks about his dancing career.

Scott is torn between wanting to become a nurse practitioner or a WNBA basketball player.
Betty Jones-Richardson, the grandmother of Chelsea and Erika Pruitt, 10, who attend the Wendell E. Green Elementary School, was also pleased at the Dunham exhibit. Saint Sabina’s Deacon Leonard Richardson said his father-in-law , Lester Goodman, danced with Dunham when he was 20-years-old. “I feel wonderful about his dancing with Ms. Dunham. He’s still living and often talks about other greats of his time,” Richardson said.

Scott Pruitt, 14, an 8th grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, proudly portrayed America’s first African American president, Barack Obama. “It allows me to learn more about him that I didn’t know because sometimes we know the outside things. We don’t know everything that went on in his life before” becoming president.

“A lot of people think we can’t do anything, that we are less than other people but portraying President Obama shows me that black people can do things and that we are successful,” Pruitt said as he proudly portrayed a picture of Obama with a paper sign that said, “push here” to hear Obama’s history.

Representing Sam Cooke, who was a black R&B, soul and gospel singer who also wrote songs and was a businessman, was Sidney Benson, 13, a seventh grade Saint Sabina student represented Sam Cooke, who was known for his gospel, R&B, soul and pop songs in addition for his song writing ability. Benson said Cooke was also known as the “King of Soul.” Cooke, Benson said, “He is an excellent role model to all young singers.”

Danielle Wright, 11, a fifth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, played the part of Patricia Bath, a physician who created lasers for the blind.  Wright wants to be a nurse when she grows up.

Bruce Warr, 14, an 8th grade student at Saint Sabina Academy played the part of NBA super star Michael Jeffery Jordan. “I love basketball. It is my passion. I want to be in the NBA, and I want to be just like Michael Jordan,” said Warr.

Trayson Johnson, 13, an 8th grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, played the role of Jesse Owens, America’s super track and field athlete.  “He is a role model to me,” said Johnson. “I like playing all sports,” said Johnson. “I want to do what he (Owens does).

Coretta Scott King was played by Yolanda Scott, 14, an eighth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, who said she wanted to play this role “because I kind of look like her, and I liked her more than any other person.” Scott wants to be a registered nurse. “I like helping others, and it seems like a fun job.”

Malcolm X was played by Morris Middleton, 14, who goes to the Simeon Career Academy, wants to be a football player and an artist. He loves drawing cartoons.

Sonia Washington, 14, an 8th grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, portrayed author Terry McMillan. McMillan wants to be a crime scene investigator “because I love mystery.”

Clara Thatcher, born in 69 B.C. who was known for her color and beauty and the ruler of Egypt, was portrayed by Jalisa Sims, 13, a seventh grade student at Saint Sabina, who said Thatcher “was beautiful and very talented. She reminds me of myself.” Sims wants to be a singer, actress and dancer.

Andre Raiford, 13, a seventh grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, portrayed the late Mayor Harold Washington. He wants to be a fireman like his dad.

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., was a neurosurgeon and the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.   Brandon Sparkman, 14, an eighth grade student at the Saint Sabina Academy, portrayed his life. Sparkman wants to be a school counselor. He chose Carson because of the many roadblocks he went through. “People were trying to play jokes on him, mess up his experiments but through all of that he still found a way to be successful,” Sparkman said.

Actress, singer and dancer Lena Horne was played by Jessica Jones, 12, a seventh grade student at Saint Sabina Academy. She wants to be an archeologist because her goal is to find the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. “I love history,” Jones said smiling.

Ryan Coppage, 11, a fifth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, played the role of Mahalia Jackson. Also a singer, Coppage wants to be an actress “because my mother says I am a drama queen.”

Paris Mauldin, 13, an eighth grader at Saint Sabina Academy, portrayed the great jazz musician Duke Ellington. He wants to be a football player.

Brandon Spencer, 12, a seventh grader at Saint Sabina Academy, portrayed civil rights leader Medgar Evers. In playing the role of Medgar Evers, Spencer said, “I wanted somebody who doesn’t get as much credit as Dr. King or Malcolm X.” He praised Evers because “he taught former slaves not to let people walk over them.” Spencer wants to be a broadcast journalist. “I like to be on TV and I talk clearly enough….”

Dr. Charles Drew, who discovered the blood bank, was played by Lazono Trammell, 13, an eighth grader at Saint Sabina Academy. He wants to be an NBA player.

Heaven Clark, 8, a third grade student at Saint Sabina who wants to be a teacher, played Oprah.

Khloe Jackson, 8, a second grade student at the J. W. Cook Elementary School, played Harriet Tubman, who helped hundreds of slave gain freedom through the Underground Railroad.  She, too, wants to be a teacher.

Jalan Brown, 13, an eighth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, played the role of civil rights activists/historian and author W. E. DuBois was played by “He seemed like a great leader for our nation, and he did a lot of blacks and he supported their rights.” Brown’s goal is to be a CEO of his own company.

Playwright, novelist Langston Hughes was played by Armani Chaney, 13, an eighth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, wants to be either a basketball player or an entrepreneur.

Frederick Douglas, who led the abolitionist movement and who was a writer and orator, was portrayed by Marcus Scott, 14, an eighth grade student at Saint Sabina Academy, who wants to be an NBA player.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.

Photo: By Chinta Strausberg

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