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Downers Grove South Students Reflect on Black History, Identity

Students will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday for “Reflections,” a show featuring poetry, rap and speeches.

Sixteen Downers Grove South students delve into black history Friday during the school’s annual black history presentation. 

“Reflections” is a celebration of black history, identity and culture, according to director Tiffany Rubin, who teaches English and theater at South High.

“When the kids came in to audition this year, many of them had latched on to an idea or identity or figure. The idea behind ‘Reflections’ is that each student is reflecting on some aspect of their black identity and thinking critically about who they are and where they came from.” 

Rubin started the annual black history production four years ago after noticing that very few African-American students at South High were participating in the school’s theater program. Rubin put on plays the first two years, but has more recently focused on original pieces created by the students, which range from rap and songs to poetry and speeches.

“Something that I’ve really loved the past couple of years is giving those students an opportunity to have their voices be heard and to give them an outlet to share who they are and what’s important to them,” Rubin said.

Junior Ciara Holloway, 16, is performing for the second year. She wrote an original poem inspired by Dororthy Dandridge, an actress and singer who in 1954 became the first African-American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

“She’s someone who helped me figure out who I am, and inspired be to be myself and just break out of the typical black stereotypes,” Holloway said.

Junior Jada Jackson, 16, is also reading an original poem. She was inspired by Maria Stewart, an abolitionist and journalist in the 1800s who paved the way for future generations of female reporters.

“Maria Stewart is someone who's basically unknown, but I really connected with her because I hope to be a journalist one day, too," Jackson said. "My poem is dedicated to her, because I wouldn't have the opportunities I do today if it wasn't for women like her."

Holloway said she hopes parents and her fellow classmates not only learn about history, but a little about the performers, too.

"I hope it makes people think about the struggles we've gone through and the things that got us to where we are today," she said.

The students will perform during two class periods Friday for DGS students and for the public at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5. 

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