History came to life for students at John Neely Bryan Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 22, thanks to Sen. Royce West and a handful of their classmates.
West’s visit was part of the school’s celebration of Black History Month.
“We’re going to do something different,” West said. “Instead of me just standing up here, giving you a speech, I’m going to ask you a question. How many of you have heard of Rosa Parks?”
Most of the students raised their hands, and they did again when asked if they knew who Thurgood Marshall was. “We’re going to relive what Rosa Parks went through,” he said. “And she’s going to have Thurgood Marshall representing her today. So, sit back and enjoy this.”
Students reenacted the time when Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and then went through a court trial. Unlike what happened historically, the rest of the students – serving as the jury – found Parks not guilty. In reality, after initially being convicted of violating the law, her conviction was eventually overturned.
West said Parks’ actions were a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. It’s important to remember the contributions and persecution African Americans have faced, he said, which is why Black History Month is so important. Even with progress being made, he said, people often face discrimination simply because of the color of their skin.
“There was a lady by the name of Rosa Parks who decided not to get up, to stay in that seat, because she had worked hard like everybody else,” West said. “I hope you understand and appreciate what African American history is all about.”
In addition to the reenactment of Park’s historic action, fifth-grader Tania Matts recited her MLK Jr. Oratory Competition that garnered third place at the contest in January. Staff and students also sang The Black National Anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Texas Pledge in English and Spanish.
Principal Tonya Anderson gave students a challenge.
“It is up to you to continue to fight for equal rights,” she said. “As he stated, I may be looking at the next senator, attorney, doctor, maybe president of the United States. Know that we have confidence in you, we have faith in you, and we know you can do it.”