Photo: Pictured above, Gadsden City High School students participate in GCHS’ annual Black History Month Program. Photo courtesy of Gadsden City High School.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
Since Gadsden City High School’s establishment in 2006, each year the school celebrates Black History Month with a program dedicated to African American traditions, achievements and contributions to American history. GCHS’ 2020 theme, “A Musical Journey from the Past to Present, Living out our Ancestors’ Dream,” highlighted the talented voices of GCHS’ youth, faculty and staff, exploring a musical journey that relives the Negro Spirituals of the past with the progression of Gospel and contemporary music of today.
Through poems, dances and musical performances, GCHS introduced its students, faculty, staff and audience members to the significant importance of Negro Spirituals and Gospel music’s relationship with African Americans in the United States. Negro Spirituals originated as an oral tradition for black men, women and children to express their hardships and experiences through a Christian perspective, serving as an ancestor to Gospel music. Songs tell the stories of people and time periods, hopes and dreams, sorrow and joy. Through exposing GCHS’ youth to music, the program taught its students the trials, tribulations and celebrations of their people.
This year was eleventh grader Sharon Alexander’s first year to perform in GCHS’ Black History Month program. Alexander sang a solo in the program and participated in the Black History Choir. To prepare for her involvement, Alexander prayed, asking God for rehearsals to go smoothly as planned and practicing at home to ensure she knew all lyrics. Throughout her preparation, she dedicated herself to her performances, striving to do her best.
Alexander’s involvement in the program taught her to never let fear conquer her, to not concern herself with what others think but to stand out for what she believes is right. She developed more self-confidence and a respect for others who walked the same path she does now, because she understands their feelings. Alexander hopes that through GCHS’ program, her peers gain more courage to stand up for what they believe, to lift their voices when life requires someone brave to be outspoken.
“I believe this program was to bring us all together,” said Alexander. “I believe the program let people see how our ancestors overcame their struggles through the use of music and songs, and it made us stronger.”
African American Studies teacher and GCHS faculty member Ernestina Cady Hardrick recited a poem during the program at the request of her students, who asked that she participate. Hardrick’s poem, entitled “When I Stand,” tells the story of her life as a Christian. Though Hardrick does not consider herself perfect, she serves a perfect God and strives to act as a positive example for others.
Hardrick expressed how music allows students and adults of all ages to come together on one accord. The program gave her a greater appreciation for music from her ancestors’ perspective, and Hardrick watched as the music educated the audience, telling stories from the past that influence the future.
“Life is real,” said Hardrick. “Through music, we can each learn to tell a story, live a story and most importantly, allow the Negro Spirituals and Gospel music to minister to our spirit.”
Hardrick believes that the Black History Month Program signifies a change within the school that is achievable, where Gadsden City High School transforms into a place where love and unity takes precedence over everything. Moreover, as the program enlightens others and shines its message brightly, academic and athletic achievements will prevail as a result and reward.
“When all is said and done,” said Hardrick. “God will get the glory.”