Black History Month programs at Westerville high schools explore cultural identity, debunk stereotypes and spotlight Black love
The organizers behind the Black History Month programs at all three Westerville high schools wanted to cover topics and themes that resonate across their Black student community.
Westerville Central’s “Rise” program casts a spotlight on growing up in neighborhoods far removed from the suburbs — offering commentary on the stereotypes and realities students face through spoken word, dance and vocal performances.
Westerville North’s program, “Excellence Academy,” is set at a college-level performing arts school that highlights Black love stories and features dances never before performed during a Black History Month show at WNHS.
Westerville South’s “Woven in Our Roots” program dives into cultural identity, exploring the different the countries, religions, cultures and histories that come together as one Black community.
Westerville Central High School
WCHS’ program, “Rise,” is set to the story of two best friends growing up in an impoverished, inner-city neighborhood — one has a bright future and the other doesn’t see himself as having a bright future, so he makes poor choices that can lead to a troubled life.
“The other best friend is trying to go to the right road but he can’t leave because he is loyal to his friend,” said junior Ebbie Ntim, who wrote the show. “So he’s trying to pick up his friend but no one can carry two people if they can’t even carry themselves.”
Senior Ova Nkoma, who worked with Ntim on the program, wanted to shine a light on what it means to “grow up in the hood” through dance, spoken word and songs.
“I know I’m not the only one in this school that grew up in that environment,” he said. “I want other people to understand where we’re coming from so they can see what it is without judging.”
“Love, loyalty, respect, morals — that’s what I think about when you live in the hood. People think drug deals, robberies, shootings…What we’re trying to show is that through that stereotype, it’s more than what you’re thinking.”
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Feb. 16 and 17 at the high school auditorium. Tickets are $6 and can be purchased here. Please note that the show uses flashing and strobe lights and includes a simulated gun incident.
Westerville North High School
The students behind “Excellence Academy” wanted to bring elements never before seen at a Black History Month program at WNHS.
The show features two different love stories, highlighting the connection that can happen between different people of different backgrounds and cultures.
“We’ve never had the chance to do a full love story so we thought it would be interesting to highlight Black love,” said senior Tahira Johnson, who is the co-student director of the show with senior Hadja Sakho.
Since the story is set at a performing arts school, the program features seven dances, including the first-ever Eritrean, Somali, and Stomp and Shake performances.
Showtime is 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at the high school auditorium. Tickets are $7 through Feb. 23; $8 after 3 p.m. on Feb. 23. They can be purchased here.
Westerville South High School
WSHS’ “Woven in Our Roots” program examines the different perspectives of what it means to be Black, diving into different countries, religions, cultures and histories.
One scene, for instance, features a conversation on the difference between being a Black American and being African and Black.
“That’s something that a lot of students at South can relate to,” said junior Joy Simei, who serves as the African dance leader for the show. Senior Nana Ayesu is the assistant African dance leader.
The show features a variety of student performances, including dance, spoken word and scripted scenes.
“At the end of the day, we are all one,” Simei said.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Feb. 23 and 24 at the high school auditorium. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here.
- Westerville Central High School
- Westerville City Schools
- Westerville North High School
- Westerville South High School