About 70 Gahanna Lincoln High School students will take audiences on a global journey as they present "Diaspora: Voices of an Ever-Changing America."

Community performances will be held at 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 1 in the auditorium at Gahanna Lincoln High School, 140 S. Hamilton Road.

A school show for participants' fellow students will be held during five of eight class periods on Friday, Jan. 24, with an average of 700 students viewing the performance each period.

Lincoln science teacher Rachel Manley, an adviser for the Diaspora program, said this year's show is different than those of previous years because it focuses on the global perspective of the influences of the African Diaspora.

"We have specific sections to speak to the beauty of Africa and the Afro-Latino experience," she said. "Students are tapping into the essence of their cultures through music, speech and dance to show how we are all connected as one Diaspora."

Diaspora is defined as the movement, migration or scattering of a people away from an established ancestral homeland, according to the event's program.

"You will experience themes that represent civil rights, history, self-discovery, art and culture," the program states. "You will hear voices from the past and those that reflect the future."

Junior Arlenie Cruz will take audiences through the experience of crossing the Mexican-American border in a speech she will present.

"I want to show the stigma of immigrants in the U.S. from people taking jobs and tax taking, when that isn't always the case," she said.

Cruz, 16, said the high school has a lot of diversity.

"Still, there are people who say things," she said. "This is me trying to use my voice. I have a platform, so why not?"

She has been giving the speech in oral interpretation for the school's speech and debate team.

She recently placed in the semifinals at a tournament in Sylvania.

"(The tournament) included all the really good people," she said. "It was assuring and showed my story was important."

Cruz said she performed in last year's Diaspora, and people thanked her afterward.

"It gives people of color a voice," she said.

Gahanna's Diaspora "Voices of an Ever-Changing America" became an extension of projects in the classroom, according to the event program.

In 2009, the English course African American Voice, created by Donja Thomas, was added to the course of studies and as an opportunity for 12th-grade students to engage with a college preparatory black literature, black studies curriculum for core English credit.

Students in that course became the original advocates for creating Diaspora, now in its eighth year.

Last winter, Gahanna's Diaspora program won Central Ohio's Social Justice Award for educational advocacy in a public school.

In addition to Manley, the program is coordinated by Johnel Amerson, a school psychologist for the district; Keah Germany, a consumer science teacher at Gahanna Lincoln; and Thomas, an English teacher who also is the black studies curriculum developer.

"We hope you feel entertained, informed and inspired, but most of all we hope you leave feeling proud of the bravery of these young people," states the conclusion in the program.

Cash donations will be accepted at the door with half the proceeds going toward Gahannathon, a fundraiser for children with pediatric cancer, and the other half going into continuing the Diaspora program.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla