Naperville Black History event to showcase Civil Rights songs

  • Keri King

    Keri King

Updated 2/19/2020 1:36 PM

"Songs of the Civil Rights Movement" will be the focus of the sixth annual Black History Month Showcase in Naperville Unit District 203.

Put on by the SUCCESS parent group, the event from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Naperville North High School will let students explain why songs from the Civil Rights era in the 1960s and beyond have meaning to them now.


Keri King, a SUCCESS group leader who is planning the showcase, said the free event will further diversity discussions the district has ramped up after some high-profile racist episodes in Naperville last fall.

The event "continues the dialogue," King said, with administrators expected to stop by to see videos produced by students about Civil Rights songs and to enjoy a soul food dinner from Chef By Request and a dance party.

Celebrating Black History Month is about "making sure that black history is an aspect that is present not only in the school for February, but yearlong," King said.

The event plans to mark the occasion with guest speakers including an author and an artist, King said.

But the main presentations will be made by students at schools where the SUCCESS parent organization operates. These include Naperville North High School, where the group was founded in 2012, as well as Jefferson, Kennedy and Madison junior high schools and Beebe and Scott elementary schools.

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SUCCESS stands for "School Using Coordinated Community Efforts to Strengthen Students," and it aims to inspire and empower black students and students of color to achieve stronger academic performance.

Amy Klug's two sons are involved with SUCCESS at Madison Junior High and Scott Elementary.

She said the Madison group has created a video about the Mahalia Jackson song "How I Got Over," which was performed before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream Speech" in 1963. The Scott Elementary group's video focuses on Sansa Kroma, a singing game from Ghana.

Other songs that will be highlighted include "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke and "Say It Loud -- I'm Black & I'm Proud" by James Brown.

Klug said her family always enjoys the Black History Month Showcase, which she said illustrates a sense of community and of pride in black heritage. This year's event will put those ideas to music.


"The kids will be able to get exposure to a broad variety of songs used in the Civil Rights movement and songs that have been historically important," Klug said. "And they'll be able to learn a lot about how much songs played a role in the right for equality and civil rights."

SUCCESS will accept donations from attendees to fund efforts such as huddle meetings to provide coordinated resources for families, a summer resource fair to highlight camps and learning activities, an annual back-to-school cookout and other educational programs.

King said the SUCCESS huddle meetings, a fixture of the group since its founding, are soon to be reshaped to focus more on tutoring and test preparation. Like it or not, she said, standardized testing "has become part of the culture" in public schools, so SUCCESS wants to help students be prepared.

"The focus of SUCCESS is to ensure that we are closing the performance gap," King said. "Kids are being tested constantly, so we want to make sure we're in line with that and can provide students with the appropriate resources."

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