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North Main Street School in Pleasantville holds African American Heritage Celebration

PLEASANTVILLE — Swirling, rhythmic sounds from the beat of African drums welcomed the students of North Main Street School on Saturday morning, Feb. 23.

The sounds and music of the Seventh Principal dance company presented a celebration of traditional African and African-American dance and music called "Bantaba: The Circle of Celebration."

Feeling the music, prekindergarten Sariya Tolbert and Nigel Forbey spontaneously stood up stomping their feet and twirling around along with the dancers on stage. It was African American Heritage Day at North Main Street School.

Lead dancer Yahay Kamate explained to the assembled students and faculty that dance and music in West Africa are an integral part of telling stories about daily life. Eager students and staff volunteered to go on stage to perform a dance story about fishing. Yahay did the call and response, "Bend your knees, hand behind you, with the right foot, switch feet, left foot back, together, 5,6,7,8, back together, how fast can you go? Sky, earth, fishing." Broad smiles of the dancers lit up the stage as they excitedly followed along.

Then it was back to the classrooms where prekindergarten through fifth-grade students put their creativity to work by designing their own drums, creating acrostic poetry or using GarageBand on their iPads to re-create the beat of the African drums they heard earlier in the day.

Walking down the hallways of the school was a feast for the eyes. The hallways were adorned with 3D displays depicting traditional African costumes, Nubian princesses with elaborate coily hair, celebrated African Americans including our own staff members, inventors, and up and coming young African American entrepreneurs. There were also messages of peace, love and equality.

Autumn Murray, a first-grader in Linda Baum's class, said on the tree of multicolored first-grade handprints: "We are all beautiful no matter what color we are."

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