In honor of Black History Month, Lafayette High School is doing a number of activities—including a new “Unity Dance.”
“With everything going on in our country, unity is the only thing that will bring us together,” said Archie Jefferson, the high school’s student advancement coach.
Jefferson is one of the leaders of the school’s clubs Men of Vision and Purpose and Women of Vision and Purpose which provide students with mentors, activities and lessons to teach them about being an active citizen and responsible adult once they graduate.
The programs host a number of activities throughout the year that promote personal and community growth and the newest is a dance with the goal of creating unity.
However, while the dance falls on Valentine’s Day, it won’t be Valentine’s-themed.
Last year, Jefferson said the school hosted a Valentine’s Day dance but this year he wanted to offer something that didn’t make any student left out. The idea of the unity dance is that students can come and have a good time, whether they have a date or not, and feel welcome.
Jefferson said he noticed there aren’t many places in the area where teenagers can go and just have fun dancing with friends. He added the only opportunities seem to be at school dances so he wanted to provide students with a time and space where they can not only enjoy themselves, but also learn a positive message.
Jefferson said there will be speakers from students and staff who will talk about love and peace and promoting a sense of community among students.
“We want them to be aware that there are a lot of people hurting and I want to make sure they know they have someone to go to,” he said. “I want to make sure they know that if they’re talking to a friend as if they’re on the edge and don’t feel as though they can talk them down, there’s always someone to go to who can help.”
Outside of those short talks will be a straight-forward dance, which Jefferson said is important because between homecoming in the fall and prom in the spring, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for students to participate in school dances.
Jefferson said the casual nature of the dance will hopefully make students feel more welcome.
“I think when you do something as formal as homecoming or prom, you exclude a lot of kids that would love to come but don’t have the means to buy a suit or a dress,” he said. “I wanted it to be free for you to come as you are.”
The tickets for the dance are $10 and students can buy them through Friday until the dance — tickets will not be available for purchase at the door.
Money from the dance will go back into the expenses for hosting the event and anything left over will go into a scholarship fund for students involved in MVP and WVP.
Jefferson said the idea for a “Unity Dance” seemed appropriate for February because the school was already doing activities to promote Black History Month, some of which also deals with concepts of community and acceptance.
For example, at the start of the month the school created an “I Have a Dream” board where students can anonymously post their goals and dreams for the future. Since it was first posted, students have filled the large board with Post-it notes with dreams written on them such as “find someone who actually cares for me” and “to make my family proud.”
“I think if we don’t give kids a space to express themselves, then we are doing them a disservice,” Jefferson said. “It goes far beyond school, this can tell you what’s going on in that kid’s life.”
In addition, the school has a positive poster contest throughout the month and the school’s library had a virtual African American history museum that students could experience through 3D goggles, Jefferson said.
To finish the month, Lafayette will host an assembly on Feb. 28 that will feature dance, art and spoken word presentations, he added.
But as the school continues with initiatives to highlight not only Black History Month but concepts of unity and acceptance, Jefferson said he hopes the community will become more involved whether through sponsorship opportunities or volunteerism.
“Everyone says they care but that’s just lip service,” he said. “There’s only two ways you can help kids and that’s with your time or your resources. Which one are you going to give?”