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Rap, rhyme and reason

The entire student body of Point Dume Marine Science Elementary boarded buses Feb. 25 for a remarkable journey into black history. Nearly 250 students were guests of Baldwin Hills LEARN/Charter Elementary and Magnet School for a 90-minute assembly in celebration of African American heritage.

To Malibuites who think they’ve seen charming children’s concerts at our four elemetary schools, one could say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The balanced blend of song, poetry, storytelling, oratory and drama created a one-stop, nonstop cultural immersion. Each classroom of the 700-student school performed with poise and energy. Many wore traditional Ghanian kente cloth or other African-inspired costume.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” came an enchanting tale of two young children who travel through time to the land of their ancestors. Three youngsters in the Special Education class then recited poems, including one on baseball legend Jack R. Robinson.

Works of 14 poets and essayists, among them Langston Hughes, Dudley Randall, Useni Eugene Perkins, Gwendolyn Brooks and Paul Laurence Dunbar, were proudly delivered prior to another classroom’s presentation of “Color Us Brilliant: Famous African Americans.” Nine short biographies, beginning with Harriet Tubman and concluding with Malcolm X, were excerpted from the book, “Color Me Brown.” Toward the end of the assembly, a wonderfully staged sketch about notable inventors was performed by fifth-graders.

A recording of African “talking drums,” the means by which news traveled from village to village, bracketed each performance. Songs by the Baldwin Hills Choir and by several grades of students saluted two centuries of black music.

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Perhaps for the first time ever, Point Dume students heard the spirituals “Steal Away to Jesus,” “Wade in the Water,” “Go Down Moses” and the folk song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” The program concluded with a rousing pop tune, “Hold on; Change is Coming!”

“I liked Harriet Tubman,” said Point Dume second-grader Sailakshmi Reyes. “She helped lead the black people to freedom.”

“The best part was the African songs,” disagreed third-grader Nallely Ruiz. Her classmate Amanda Ernst was wild about “the skit where they hold the signs [inventions].”

Point Dume teacher Ioanna Sklaveniti, who taught at Baldwin Hills last year, organized the field trip. Baldwin Hills instructor Miriam Hooper, the program’s inspiring choral conductor, acted as liason.

Point Dume principal Randie Stern and Baldwin Hills principal Joanne Polite will continue affiliation between the schools through a pen pal program. At Stern’s invitation, Baldwin Hills students will visit Malibu this spring to explore tidepools and marine science curriculum on the Point.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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