Learning at Western Avenue School in Flossmoor is going to have a beat during February as Alicia Gaskin, Jade Vazquez and the rest of the Parent Teacher Organization puts on a Black History Month program that they hope will have students singing along.
“Sounds of Blackness” will start with an assembly on Feb. 1 featuring a DJ and professional musicians introducing students to a variety of genres that were created by Black people throughout the nation’s history, including hip hop, gospel, soul, reggae, jazz, blues, rhythm and blues and rock and roll.
The musicians will not only demonstrate the sounds of different genres but will talk with students.
“They’ll take some time and kind of share with the children what Black music means to them,” Gaskin said.
Musicians at the assembly will be Boo of Boo & Gotti, a hip hop duo, and Leon Q, a hip hop trumpet player.
The plan also calls for musical interludes every day during the month so students can continue to experience the rich traditions of Black music.
There’s a purpose to keeping the music playing, Gaskin said. It helps with learning.
“What better way for them to remember things, right?” she said. “I taught my children how to spell their names through a song. If it comes in a jingle, if it comes in a tune, you don’t forget the information that you hear.”
Genres and the time periods they came from also have signature fashions associated with them, so during Spirit Week, students will be invited to dress up in a way that exemplifies a particular musical style.
Gaskin said the PTO would help parents and kids by sending them pictures that show examples of the styles that connect with specific genres.
Vazquez created a T-shirt with a “Sounds of Blackness” logo, thanks in part to sponsors D’s Cookie Dough Co., Shops on Sterling, and Mom-Care Oasis.
Students will be invited to wear the shirts during Spirit Week and at Math Night, where Gaskin and her brother, DJ Stephen Alec, will perform. Gaskin is a former professional performer.
The music also will help bring history alive. Gaskin said music has always had a special role to play in the lives of Black people.
“Music that was founded by Blacks (emerged) when they didn’t really have a voice, when they weren’t supposed to be heard,” she said. “Music was their way of expressing what was going on in their lives.”
Students will have a chance to perform, too. The closing event of the celebration will be an opportunity for kids to share the song they learned the most about during the month.