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Afrocentric History Lesson Performed By Students At Betty Shabazz Academy

3/14/2018, noon | Updated on 3/14/2018, noon
Students at Betty Shabazz Academy recently participated in the third annual Living Wax Museum at the school. Students were tasked ...
Students at Betty Shabazz Academy recently participated in the third annual Living Wax Museum at the school. Students were tasked with choosing a historical black figure to research and portray at the event. Photo Credit: Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools

Afrocentric History Lesson Performed By Students At Betty Shabazz Academy

By: Katherine Newman

Students at Betty Shabazz Academy recently participated in the third annual Living Wax Museum at the school. Students were tasked with choosing a historical black figure to research and portray at the event. The entire school participated in the Living Wax Museum, organized by Lisa Manuel, a teacher at Betty Shabazz Academy.

The assignment is school-wide and modified by grade level, according to Manuel. “This year the middle school students were responsible for traditional African and African American leaders so they had people like Anwar Sadat, Queen Nefertiti, and Nelson Mandela. It’s a lot of people who are not from America because we want to give them the chance to do that research and experience other cultures,” said Manuel.

Manuel was also responsible for preparing her eighth-grade students for the Living Wax Museum. The eighth-grade students were asked to write a two-page biography about their person, create a poster board that included captions, a timeline, and 5 interesting facts about their person, and write a 90-second monologue to perform in character as their historical person.

“They dress up as the person and create a speech that lasts about 90 seconds and they have to really become the character. If the person has an accent they are supposed to speak with an accent, they should have props that the person might have, they can use parts of a speech that their person may have given.

They are really getting a hands-on approach to it,” said Manuel. During the event, students stood statuesque in their costumes with their display until a bystander taped them on the shoulder. After being tapped, they would then begin their 90-second monologue about their historical figure.

The idea of doing this event came from Manuel’s daughter participating in a living wax museum at her school. Manuel thought it was a good way to engage students in a history lesson but wanted the program and Betty Shabazz Academy to go a step further and focus on Afrocentric history lessons and leaders.

“I really think it’s important to learn about other cultures. Learning about other cultures is what fights ignorance and it creates a sense of pride for the students to know where their ancestors came from and all that they have accomplished,” said Manuel.

“Learning about African cultures, in general, helps them realize that there are African people all over the world. We just want to expose them to that and hopefully, it inspires them to keep learning about African culture and empowering them at the same time.”

Betty Shabazz Academy, located at 7823 S Ellis Ave, is part of the Betty Shabazz International Charter School network made up of three African-centered charter schools serving K-12 students in Chicago.