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Volunteers continue black history tradition (video)

By Carolina Astrain
March 2, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 2, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.

Tonika Bufford gives the opening welcome to students and parents at Shields Elementary during its  Black History program Feb. 22. The event was punctuated with speeches, singing and dancing.

As Tonika Bufford took the modest podium stage inside the elementary school concrete gymnasium, the special education teacher looked out proudly at a sea of color.

"Not many schools in town do this," Bufford said. "We have so many people to thank when we are done here, and we will continue to put this on for our community."

The Shields Magnet Elementary School students settled into positions, sitting cross-legged.

Yvonne Williams, 10, put it simply, "I care about this because of my skin color."

VISD School Board member Kevin VanHook, Mount Nebo Baptist Church dancers and Victoria East High School sophomore Willord Simmons provided an all-star cast for the school's hourlong Black History Month program.

After reading from a detailed historical introduction, Willord, 15, played an original piece he composed, titled "Opaque Essence."

The sophomore played elegantly against a keyboard piano with the sun peeking into the gymnasium's rolled-up entrance.

Silas Bluntzer, 9, said Willord's piano performance was his favorite part.

"It was good learning about the Founding Fathers and what they did for the slaves," Silas said. "The guy at the piano was also great."

The program continued with dancing by the Shields Shark Steppers, Mount Nebo's Angel Wings praise dancers and a blitz through African-American history by VanHook.

The school board member and pastor sought to align black history with American history in the minds of the elementary school students.

Rudolph Cantu III, 12, sat a few feet away from VanHook as he delivered his sermon-like history lesson.

"And what do we call that?" VanHook asked.

"American history," replied the students.

"Which is also?" asked VanHook.

"African-American history!" the audience yelled back.

Program organizers Bufford and Rosie Brown said despite the hectic scheduling and practices that come with producing a full-fledged Black History Month program, they felt like they owed it to their community to continue the tradition.

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