Black history, diversity and issues facing all kinds of people were explored through dance and storytelling Thursday, Feb. 1 by the Middle Township Step Team, a group of about 40 children from elementary school through high school age.

“We have children in the Step Team from 5 to 17 years old,” said Andrea Davis, a teacher and adviser to the group. “They started learning the dances in October, but began practice for this performance a few weeks ago.”

The dancers are a diverse group in age, race, religion and gender, and they're committed to the school’s overall message that diversity makes Middle Township schools stronger.

“We lean on one another,” said David Farrow, teacher and group adviser. “Black, white, Hispanic, Asian – that’s what makes us strong.”

It’s a message that is reiterated throughout the year at Middle Township Middle School, where Farrow teaches, and this year that message was made part of the fabric of Black History month.

“We’re celebrating Black History month with the Step Team performance,” Davis said. “It’s Feb. 1, and it’s a black history presentation.”

But there’s more to the performance, Farrow said.

“We model diversity during the program,” he said. “We don’t just talk about it. Even though this is an African-American program, we brought in women’s issues and other issues, because it’s all about right and wrong.”

The hour-long presentation was a mixture of storytelling and dance beginning with an unflinching look at American history, including the indentured servitude of Europeans and American Indians that gradually morphed into the slavery of Africans.

Through dance and a modified history lesson, the Step Team and a narrator took the audience of about 500 Middle School children through the tribulations and accomplishments of blacks in the country, celebrating the deeds of folks such as Ruby Richards, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and George Henry White.

Ultimately, Farrow tied the presentation to an anti-bullying message, calling for students to stand by one another – to not allow another student to be put down for any reason.

“No matter what the struggle, if we band together, we can get through it,” Farrow said.

“If we can get a country that doesn’t bully one another, when they become adults, they will support bills and laws that provide for equality and for justice for all, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Christal Holmes is also an adviser to the Step Team.

Other Step Team performances are being planned. For information see middletwp.k12.nj.us/middleschool or call 609-465-1834.

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Contact: 609-601-5193

david.benson@catamaranmedia.com

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