Black History Month Celebration 2021

A collaboration between Cedarhurst Center for the Arts and Mt. Vernon City Schools, District 80

For the last ten years Cedarhurst has brought a guest artist to perform for over 1600 District 80 students in celebration of Black History Month. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world and how we educate our children, therefore, we have changed and adapted this program as well. Together, with District 80 staff and educators we have created a dynamic educational resource page that safely delivers a message to our students which celebrates black history, African folktales and demonstrates how we value all people and merfolk, regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity.

This year our featured artist will be a real Live Mermaid! Professional artist Jessica Brown will introduce this year’s theme in a video format that tells the story of her people and encourages our students to find joy in creativity, expression, and art.


Jessica Brown a.k.a. – The Lady J – is an entertainer, activist, artist, and actor.

She holds a BFA in Furniture Design from Murray State University in Kentucky, and a Masters of Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design.

Now an Assistant Professor of Industrial Design at RISD, she teaches classes that interpret her profession through a performative and emotional lens. She serves on the RISD Board of Social Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee and is the African American Ambassador to the City of Providence, RI, under Mayor Jorge Eliza.

As a musician in the Extraordinary Rendition Band (ERB) and leader of the Clam Jam Brass Band (a feminist brass party band), she is active in her local community and interested in race politics, social justice, youth education and the arts.

As a multidisciplinary multimedia spectacle generator, Brown makes artwork focused on the intersection of race, activism and gender roles in television, media and pop culture. For more information: www.theladyjbrown.com




  • Mythical stories of Mermaids and Merman exist all over the world.
  • Stories of merfolk come from fisherman who live along the sea and large bodies of water. Africa, Ancient Greece, Ireland, Deutschland, Japan, England, India, etc.
  • Mermaids are known for healing and warning fishermen of storms approaching at sea that could put them in danger.
  • Mermaids live in a magic city under the water where they can breathe. Some say it is the lost city of Atlantis.
  • There is a folktale that African slaves who died at sea during their transport to the Americas were re-born as mermaids and mermen.
  • Mermaids are not real but bring our imaginations to life and are the theme to many classic folktales.