Rocky Fork Enterprise

Diaspora event to celebrate African-American culture


Gahanna Lincoln High School students invite the public to celebrate African-American culture with them during an event called Diaspora at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, in the school's auditorium.

School psychologist Johnel Amerson said she and her colleagues have been working with a diverse group of students who would participate in the show as greeters, singers, writers, actors, orators, stage crew members and dancers.

Admission is a nonperishable item for Gahanna Residents In Need or a monetary donation for Gahanna-thon that will benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.

Amerson said Diaspora would be informative and entertaining, and the program is one of the high school's Black History Month programs.

"The idea of the program originated from students who graduated three years ago," she said. "The students were inspired by the African-American Voices English class they took during their junior year. It was a group of a few young ladies who asked in January 2012 if we could hold a program in February 2012."

Amerson said a quality program couldn't come together in that short amount of time, but it did light a spark.

Amerson, English teacher Donja Bridges and consumer-science teacher Keah Germany began brainstorming ways to make a meaningful program that showcased the influence African-Americans had on American society and not just historical events and people.

"That's how we came up with the name, 'Diaspora -- Voices of an Ever-Changing America,' "she said. "We want to showcase how America has evolved over time."

The inaugural show was during the 2012-13 school year.

This year, Amerson said, students auditioned so the staff could get an idea of their talent.

"Everyone is used in some type of way," she said. "It may not be with the talent they audition with, but everyone is offered some type of role."

Tia Holliman, dean of curriculum and a former math teacher, teamed up with other staff members this year to put together some examples of performances that represent different time periods and cultural attributes.

"We showed (students) some examples of performances for inspiration and told them they could replicate or put their own spin on things," Amerson said. "Many of them chose to audition with their own interpretations of the time periods, and some even created original works.

"We are proud in the fact that not only does the show demonstrate the impact of African-American culture on America, but it is also an opportunity for the students to showcase their own personality and voice."

Amerson said the facilitators are confident that a perfect flowing show has been created.

"After auditions, we do whatever it takes to put the students' selected pieces together to make a beautiful tapestry," she said. "We have an initial show in mind, and then the students run with it and make it even better than we could have imagined."

Diaspora is expected to be annual event that's open to all high school students and ability levels, according to Amerson.

In addition to Diaspora, Gahanna Lincoln celebrates Black History Month with the African-American read-in, hosted by the high school media center.