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BLACK HERITAGE // History is stage for students' lesson

The slave trips from Africa to America brought the lineage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other African-Americans whose participation in the freedom movement led to the civil rights movement.

The black history program at Brooksville Elementary School this week celebrated African-American successes while remembering the hardships that produced them.

The pivotal act in the program was a re-enactment of Rosa Parks refusing to give a white man her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

"I don't think I should have to stand," said 11-year-old fifth-grader Dominique Ellis, who played Rosa Parks. "Why do you always push us around?"

The rest is history. Police came to arrest her, which heated up the civil rights movement that ultimately brought the end of legalized segregation.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students participated in the production.

"They've worked so hard on this," said Hazel Trueblood, the paraprofessional who directed the performance. "We've been working on it since Christmas, so they have gotten everything just right."

The production included almost 50 students and several teachers.

"Everybody has been really great," said Dominique. "You can trust everybody because they're all your friends. You know they won't let you down in the performance."

The annual black history event has been going on for five years, but this is the first time Trueblood has directed it.

"She's been great," said 10-year-old fifth-grader Kasi Johnson. "She's nice and she's funny. She makes sure we understand everything so we have the confidence to do well."

The theme of this year's show, which featured four performances over three days, was "Remembering Our Past, Celebrating the Present, Strengthening Our Future."

"We did a lot with who we were in history, who we are today and what we want to be in the future," said Brooksville Elementary principal Mary LeDoux. "This whole history is part of who we are as a nation. There have been things that we are not proud of in our past, but we have to learn from our mistakes."

Earlier in the week, every student at Brooksville Elementary made a paper chain with which to tie his or her hands. On the chain, the students wrote one thing about their lives they would like to change. At the end of the performance, just before Aretha Franklin's Chain Of Fools blasted from the loudspeaker, each student stood up and broke the chain.

"There's always that one link in the chain that holds you back from being the best person you can be," said Ann Marie Effinger, an art teacher at Brooksville Elementary who helped organize the production. "This is a way to symbolically break that link. It's like a New Year's resolution for motivation."

If breaking the chain wasn't enough encouragement for some students, Kasi said she thought the content of the production would inspire anyone.

"After seeing this, I want people to know that some people accomplished things in very hard ways," she said. "They should realize they can overcome anything if they set their mind to it."

Mathew Wasserman can be reached at