Showcase helps black community in Dist. 203 'come together'

 
 
Posted1/22/2019 6:00 AM
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  • Just as the event has in the past, the 5th annual Black History Showcase & Dinner in Naperville Unit District 203 will feature performances by students, staff members and parents highlighting the achievements of historical figures organizers call "Unsung African-American Heroes."

    Just as the event has in the past, the 5th annual Black History Showcase & Dinner in Naperville Unit District 203 will feature performances by students, staff members and parents highlighting the achievements of historical figures organizers call "Unsung African-American Heroes." Courtesy of Inell Lawrence

When Black History Month hits each February, it's time for a parent group promoting academic and social success of black and minority students in Naperville Unit District 203 to plan a celebration.

The fifth annual Black History Showcase & Dinner is the SUCCESS parent organization's way of uniting black students and parents from several schools to feel the support of community and highlight African-American accomplishments.

Since getting its start about six years ago at Naperville North High School, SUCCESS has launched chapters at five or six of the junior high and elementary schools that feed into North, said Khalid Smith, one of the founding members of the organization, whose name stands for School Using Coordinated Community Efforts to Strengthen Students.

"A lot of the different chapters have their own events that are more tailored to their school needs," Smith said. "With this showcase, we try to all come together."

This year's showcase is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at Jefferson Junior High at 1525 N. Loomis St. in Naperville. With tickets for suggested donations of $8 for adults and $5 for kids, audience members will be treated to a multimedia presentation and a soul food dinner catered by a SUCCESS member who used to have her own restaurant. Tickets are for sale at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/success-black-history-month-showcase-dinner-feb-2019-tickets-54716144461.

Just as the event has done in the past, it will use performances by students, teachers, staff members and parents to highlight the accomplishments of historical figures Smith describes as "Unsung African-American Heroes," or people "who have made noteworthy contributions to our society but have received little or no recognition for them."

On the list of unsung heroes suggested to be portrayed this year are the likes of Colin Powell, Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and nearly 25 others. Smith said organizers asked participants to record themselves speaking, singing, dancing or otherwise giving a performance about their unsung hero for two to three minutes, using clues to describe who the person is without fully giving it away.

"We'll bring those clips together and try and present them in a fun way that allows the people who come to guess who the unsung hero may be," Smith said.

Teens from the Alive Media Group, a student club at the Alive Center near Naperville North, will help edit and put together the final presentation of the video show, as they did last year, Smith said.

The Black History Showcase & Dinner is a culminating event each year for SUCCESS, which also focuses its efforts on promoting STEM activities in science, technology, engineering and math; encouraging the hiring of more black and diverse teachers in District 203; working to close the achievement gaps between students in certain demographics; and promoting college readiness for black and minority students, Smith said.

On the second and fourth Sundays of each month, the original SUCCESS chapter at Naperville North hosts a "huddle meeting," which Smith describes as a welcoming event featuring snacks, tutoring and open gym time for students, along with connections to resources and tours of the school for parents. The frequent huddles give visibility to the organization.

"I think SUCCESS has really been helping out in the community and just making sure that there's a like face and that there's a community of African Americans and other minorities that (minority students) can see," Smith said.

Upcoming huddle meetings are scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 27, Feb. 10 and Feb. 24 at Naperville North High School, 899 Mill St.

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