Saratoga’s Afterschool students recently staged a production they dubbed “The Evolution of Hip-Hop” as an homage to Black culture and music—part of a multi-month celebration of Black History Month that traditionally takes place annually in February. The students were involved in every aspect of the performance—from backstage to centerstage.

“It was recently the 50th anniversary of hip-hop,” said Director of Afterschool & Recreation Michael Chapman. “We tapped into that because it speaks to the different generations. Music has always been a form of communication; we talk about [the history of] music—[like] church hymns and slave songs—but we wanted to pause and look at how hip-hop has influenced society.”

Throughout February, the students dedicated themselves to their roles, whether they were choreographing dances, rehearsing spoken word, constructing props, or practicing their stage cues. The kids worked together to bring the history of hip-hop and Black culture to life on stage while conveying their own emotions through their respective performance pieces.

In addition to the cultural and historical importance of the project, it was the perfect opportunity for students to showcase their talents, expand on their passions, and discover new interests. One student, London, discovered a newfound love for dance and is looking forward to joining the Afterschool dance team.

“My favorite part was performing,” said London. “It felt awesome and amazing because I can do dance when I get older.”

Another student, Elizabeth, shed light on the importance of being behind the scenes.

“I like working backstage because I can see all of the dancers,” said Elizabeth, who was responsible for the stage curtains. “I felt important because without the people backstage we couldn’t do the show.”

The multimedia team also lent their talents to the show, incorporating techniques they recently acquired as part of afterschool’s ongoing multimedia program—a popular afterschool and recreation club led by Recreation Coordinator Francina Smith.

“I was backstage; I was the director,” said multimedia student, Quesia. “Most of what I did was control the lights. I just like adding the effects—spotlights, smoke machine, and lights.”

The younger kids teamed up to sing “Lift Every Voice & Sing”—a song initially written as a poem by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. They enjoyed the rehearsals leading up to the recital so much that they decided to establish an Afterschool choir.

The night of the show had an impressive turnout. Parents, grandparents, and siblings gathered in the recreation auditorium to cheer on their friends and family. A social worker from one of the schools many of the students attend even came to show support for the kids.

“It all paid off. You know that relief when you just do something?” said Mark, a student who helped with curtains and stage cues.

Since the live performance, the multimedia team has been working together to re-capture the individual performances on video. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series to learn more about a field trip the kids took to a professional production studio and how they used what they learned there and in the club to produce videos of the performances.

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