As Rahmier Dennis-Mofield stepped out on stage in tights and a wild black wig, the Roosevelt Middle School auditorium echoed with giggles, whistles and loud applause.
Mofield was reenacting Frederick Douglass in a segment of the Germantown school’s Women in History Assembly program on Thursday afternoon.
While primarily focusing on women, and Rosa Parks in particular, the “Sitting For Justice” program also briefly touched on revolutionary men in black history.
Rosa Parks and beyond
Through a 12-part production, middle-school students, teachers and parents watched the arduous battle of African Americans from slavery through modern times.
The program, headed by Lisa Y. Hopkins, was designed to commemorate influential black women in history. It was held to commemorate what would have been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday (the exact date: Feb. 4).
“Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks,” Hopkins said, “but we wanted the students to learn about other women who engaged in the act of courage.”
Hopkins heads the Kama-Sahlor Consulting Group, which provides afterschool performing-arts programs for private and public schools in Philadelphia, as well as community organizations and churches.
“To make programs like this possible, you can’t just come in during the hour and a half after school and expect to get everything done,” she said while directing costumed kids backstage.
In addition to theatrical dialogue, Hopkins’ program focuses on African American history, music and dance.
Funding and volunteer efforts
A $500 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts literary grant, combined with another small grant received earlier this year from City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ Philadephia Activity Fund, helped to pay for costumes, makeup and props.
The theatrical group also relies on donations and efforts from people like Barbara Bond-Dews, the production’s costumer and make-up artist who also runs her own traveling arts-and-crafts shop, Bond Crafts.
“I think Lisa did a good job,” said Dews. “I think the kids got a lot out of the program. They were able to get a sense of accomplishment for finishing something.”
Sabrina Sanders, the mother of Roxanne Josey, one of the actresses, agreed.
“Roxanne has been working on this show for months,” said Sanders, whose daughter now wants to be involved in more productions. “She is so excited to be here.”