Nearly 2,000 students, parents and staff packed under a tent Friday, Feb. 28, to learn from Texas Black History icons, and students launched into their own Country and Western-themed performances during the final day of Black History Month.
Students districtwide gathered for the three-hour ceremony at the Southwest Campus.
Featured guests were Ms. Mollie Stevenson, Jr., a Texas rancher, cowgirl, historian and a National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee in Fort Worth, and Ms. Melissa Waddy-Thibodeaux, a professional historical re-enactor, actor and author. Both in their own way displayed on stage the rich history of African Americans and directed their knowledge and experience to a younger generation of learners. Also on hand was another special guest, percussionist Kenyha Shabazz, who invited students to the stage to help with the drumming.
The event coincided with "Go Texan Day," which is the Friday before the opening of the annual and ultra-popular Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Ms. Stephenson, who founded the American Cowboy Museum on her family's Texas ranch in Houston, unveiled a quilt display and Ms. Waddy-Thiboudeaux performed "The Resurrection of the General Harriet Tubman," and pressed home the point to students that illiteracy can be reversed when people all work together for a common goal. Ms.Waddy-Thibodeaux, of Flying Geese Productions, was joined by the Buffalo Soldiers, who performed the cowboy yell and handed out pieces of leather to go with the "Go Texan Day" theme.
"We had a tremendous turnout," said Ms. Anna Medina, Northeast Campus nurse and producer of the program. "It was very educational and we were fortunate to have such notable guests appear before our students."
Students from the Northeast Campus performed "Seven Spanish Angels," by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson, the East Campus Rompers danced to "The Ballad of Bad and Rich" featuring Cowboy Troy, Southwest Campus stepped to "Wagon Wheel" and Northeast students performed "Hoedown, Throw Down." East Campus student Shartay Wheeler thrilled the audience with her performance of "Country Girl."
The students followed with a cowboy and cowgirl fashion show led by Dr. M. Annette Cluff, Varnett's superintendent, and Mr. Alsie Cluff, Jr., facilities and operations director at Varnett and a member of the board of directors.
One representative from Texas Children's Health Plan distributed information about medical assistance for children and care packages and an another representative handed out materials on health and wellness. South Texas Dental also was on hand to distribute dental packages.
"We want to give a special thanks to Texas Children and South Texas Dental for a job well down," said Nurse Karen Allen of the Southwest Campus. "We look forward to working with them again for Cinco de Mayo."