Sparkman Middle School students learn impact black musicians made in history

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Sparkman Middle School

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Sparkman Middle School is closing out Black History Month on a high note.

A teacher came up with the idea to produce Sparkman's first "Black History Program" for the entire school.

Soul music for the soul

"We have an amazing group of teachers and an amazing group of kids," said Sparkman Middle Assistant Principal Kristen Bell. "So one of our teachers, Mrs. Kayla Jefferson – this is actually a program that she created a couple years at a previous school, and she has adapted it for our school."

The program focuses on the evolution of African American music from the 20s to present day.

A Beyoncé lesson

"Our kids started off listening to Beyoncé's version of 'Before I Let Go,' and then they realize oh – it's actually not by Beyoncé - and then we go from the 20s up until present day," said Bell.

Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline Coachella in 2018. Billboard called it "groundbreaking." She performed the 1981 Maze single "Before I Let Go," and it was featured as a bonus track on her "Homecoming" album and played in the credits of her Netflix special.

"Before I Let Go" came out in 1981. Frankie Beverly wrote it and sang lead in Maze. It reached #13 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

Billboard interviewed Beverly about Beyoncé covering his popular song. He said, "the way she just released it, it's off the chain. She's done so much, this is one of the high points of my life."

It's a point Sparkman Middle School wanted to make. Bell said music is trans-generational and reaches listeners regardless of age, race and gender.

Black music is 'influential'

Bell said she wanted to help students learn about influential black musicians outside of the historical figures they learn about in textbooks.

"We wanted to reach our kids," said Bell, "We know that music is a big thing that our kids like. So, lets show them - hey what you're listening to has been impacted by African Americans since we got to this country. And so I think it's really awesome just to be able to expose our kids to that."

Bell said the students are learning while having fun.

Teachers have already started making plans for next year's Black History Program. They would like to include the impact local African Americans have made in the community.

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