On Saturday, February 8, 2020, the African American Culture Club’s annual show, titled “Our Music, Our Story: 100 Years of Making Our Stories Heard”, will seek to reflect the complex experiences of African Americans across centuries, through the lens of their musical culture from the 1920s to the 2000s.
This year’s theme, Music Throughout the Decades, hopes to embody the unique history of African Americans throughout the 20th and 21st centuries through the eyes of the Cherry Hill Community’s members.
Mrs. Barnes, advisor of the African American Culture Club, has witnessed the club’s shows over the past 19 years that she has been working at East. Sponsored by the African American Culture Club, the students and clubs still strive to explore the journeys of African Americans, in conjunction with Cherry Hill East, Cherry Hill West, and the Cherry Hill Civic Association.
This year, the show will take place at Cherry Hill High School West’s auditorium. Performers have practiced twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for two and one-half hours each.
The theme of music throughout the decades aims to open people’s eyes to the stories and integration of African Americans throughout the past two centuries. Momentous events in African American history will be reflected through dancing, singing, and poetry, delving into struggles and victories ranging from the Harlem Cotton Club of the 1920s and lynching in the 1930s to the African American presence in the Vietnam War of the 1960s. Members have also collaborated with history teachers at East to expand their understanding of the events they seek to portray through performances.
For example, Ms. Rogers strives to bring awareness to the protests towards lynching throughout history through the song “Strange Fruit” by Bllie Holiday, along with an interpretive dance performed by Mckenzie Taylor (‘21), Mia Bonner (‘21) and Nia Slaton (‘22). Another dance will also be performed to the song Honeysuckle Rose by Thomas Fats Waller.
“The overall goal is educating the Cherry Hill Community about Black History past, present, [and] future,” says Mrs. Barnes. Despite the vast extracurricular lives of her own children, she still encourages them to invest time in the show, to bring awareness to the depth of African Americans’ journey across the decades.
The Cherry Hill community places everlasting importance on illuminating the history of African Americans’ lives throughout history, and Mrs. Barnes feels that participation from the youth is essential to bring their journey to life.
The vast majority of students involved in the show have participated in the African American Culture Club in previous years. They strive to thematically represent the chapters in the lives of African Americans in U.S History to spread a core message. This year, they endeavor to bring light to the evolution of the conduct and lifestyles of African Americans throughout the decades.
Aliyah Bowles, the director and choreographer of the show and once a student at East, attempted to incorporate meaningful music in African American culture to highlight aspects of their experience that people have been unaware of. Although she creates the choreography and foundation of the show, the contents within each unique piece are usually student-driven.
“There are a lot of things that we do on our own that Aliyah then [confirms] with us and [enhances] our vision,” said Machayla Randall (‘21).
This year, performers aspire to represent essential events that have forever marked African American history. However, on a larger scale, the show embodies the essence of African American life in the United States, shaped their experiences throughout centuries.
Mrs. Barnes feels that the club has the promise to continue to personify the depth of the African American journey in our nation. “We have freshmen and sophomores participating [this year], so hopefully they can [establish] a legacy”.