On Thursday February 22nd, 2018 students, staff, and members of the North Lawndale community gathered at DRW College Prep to celebrate Black History Month. “Soul Night” was set to be the largest celebration of Black History Month in the history of DRW College Prep. Coming off of an amazing month full of activities, this event captured the essence of #BlackExcellence and proved to be an event worth attending.

I, along with our principal and Black History Month planning team decided that having “Soul Night” would be the perfect opportunity to showcase our students and engage the community in a night of fun, entertainment, and give a “taste and tour of the African Diaspora” through SOUL FOOD sampling! Throughout the month, DRW had several activities to celebrate Black History Month including: BHM advisory lessons, a BH Town Hall, a special Black Panther movie screening at a neighborhood theater, and of course, “Soul Night”. Our month’s theme – SOUL GLO’ was taken from the 1988 film “Coming to America” in an effort to encourage our community to “Let your soul shine through”. All of our events were a huge success and we attribute 100% of that to the dedication of our committed teachers, students and staff.

“Soul Night” featured intermittent, “flash mob” style performances that featured an amazing opening by students from DRW’s Choir and Theater program. They Performed “We Built This” which is a staged song adapted from the season four opening of The ABC hit television show “Black-ish”. Sophomore, Dwayne Liggins, along with the Boy’s Glee Club performed a spoken word piece addressing the recent protest against the National Anthem and performed the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. “Soul Night” also featured our Dance team and a tribute to Black Greek Fraternities and Sororities (The Divine 9) by our Boy’s Step team. Later in the evening, DRW’s honors choir welcomed the Dance team from Muchin College Prep with an African Folk Song, “Siyahamba”. We invited Muchin to perform an African inspired dance piece and they graciously agreed by bringing a few of their talented dancers. Their well-prepared choreography and contagious energy dazzled our audience. Closing out performances, Monica Kinsey delivered a strong reading of “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou which was followed by a heartfelt version of Andra Day’s hit song “Rise up” by senior, Jael Rutherford.

 

“Soul Night” also welcomed local Black Owned businesses to set up vendor tables and by the end of the night, created nearly $500.00 in combined revenue. Featured businesses were: Accessorize Me Boutique, Cedi’s Scent (Natural Shea Butters, oils and soap), Oooh Wee! Sweet Tea, Hard Knockers Apparel, Bell’s Marketing (DRW student, Harry Bell), and Don’s Life Pins. Don’s Life Pins is owned by eight-year-old philanthropist, Donald Woods, who is a student at North Lawndale’s Holy Family School and Founder of Donald’s Toy Shelter.

In addition, our food vendors included Zita CooksMacArthursJa Grill and Captain Hooks. Again, we are so excited to be able to make a contribution to our community of black business owners. We look forward to expanding “Soul Night” and welcoming more of the West Side community next year!

A Native of Chicago, IL, Martin L. Woods is the Founding Music Instructor (2013) and Fine Arts Department Head at DRW College Prep. Woods is a classically trained yet multifaceted Vocalist who has performed nationally. Martin holds both the Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and the Master of Music degree and Professional Diploma in Opera from The Chicago College of Performing Arts (Roosevelt University).
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