Black History Month Celebration 2023

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

Theme: Africa to America – The Art of Dance

Goals: To have every child, Pre-K – 8th grade, experience a professional dance performance, by Alicia Sunshine Gbaho and to learn about the rich history dance plays in African American culture. She will take our students on a journey through time starting with African Dance, Jazz/Smooth Dance, Hip-Hop and Afro Beats. Students will then get to participate in a hands-on art, music and dance activity, led by District 80 educators. The culminating program showcased musical performances, Artwork & TAG research projects, created by the students throughout the month of February.

In the older grade levels, we will engage in conversations around the discussion questions listed below. This will help us understand why the Harlem Renaissance happened and how this revival of African American cultural and artistic expression was such an important time in our American History.

Below are discussion questions meant to engage students’ interest and introduce this year’s BHM Theme for grades pre-k through 8th.

  • Why should we celebrate Dance? 
    Dance is an art form in which human movement becomes the medium for sensing, understanding, and communicating ideas, feelings, and experiences.
    Dance is a performance-based art form. It transmits culture, emotions, tells stories and can be a testimony of a historical moment or place in time. It has been performed and has inspired people for as long as humankind has been in existence
  • What is Rhythm and Movement in ART and why is it important? 
    MOVEMENT is the path the viewer’s eye takes through a work of art. Movement can be directed along lines, edges, shapes, and color. RHYTHM is created when one or more elements are used repeatedly to create a feeling of movement. Rhythm creates a mood like music or dancing.

Cedarhurst and District 80 schools wanted to bring Black History to life through the Art of Dance. We wanted to raise awareness of important black dancers, from different time periods, and how their styles have positively impacted our American History. 


  • Misty Copeland – Misty Danielle Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 75-year history.
  • Savion Glover – Savion Glover is an American tap dancer, actor, and choreographer who became known for his unique pounding style of tap dancing he dubbed “free style hard core”.  He set the record as the youngest person to ever receive a full scholarship from the Newark Community School of the Arts. Glover has performed on Broadway, in movies and television, and was awarded a Tony for Best Choreography in 1996. Eventually allowing him to work with dancing greats such as Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Henry LeTang.
  • Alvin Ailey – Alvin Ailey Jr. was an American dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He created AAADT and its affiliated Alvin Ailey American Dance Center as havens for nurturing Black artists and expressing the universality of the African-American experience through dance. On July 15, 2008, the United States Congress passed a resolution designating AAADT a “vital American cultural ambassador to the World.”
  • Michael Jackson – Michael Joseph Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. Dubbed the “King of Pop”, he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century.
  • The Nicholas Brothers – The Nicholas Brothers were an entertainment act composed of brothers, Fayard and Harold, who excelled in a variety of dance techniques, primarily between the 1930s and 1950s
  • Bill Robinson ‘Bojangles’ – Bill Robinson, nicknamed Bojangles, was an American tap dancer, actor, and singer, the best known and the most highly paid African-American entertainer in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. His long career mirrored changes in American entertainment tastes and technology. 
Jazz Music Playlist: for teachers & staff to play during class time, or access the 2022 BHM Playlist on Cedarhurst’s YouTube Channel.



Color Mixing, Color Moving (pre-k through 3rd grade)

  • Read the book “Color Dance” by Ann Jonas and create a painting inspired by the story. Students will learn about warm and cool colors as well as color mixing. 
  • Give students two colors to mix on a paper plate (or small plastic cup) and watch them change like magic! (Blue+Yellow=Green) 
  • Allow students to freely paint their new color onto a blank piece of paper. Or, pre-print a dance figure silhouette and let each child freely paint over and around. (Printable Collage Definition PDF)


Wire Sculpture Dancers (3rd through 8th grade)

  • Students will create a work of art, from colorful wire, inspired by the human body in motion.
  • Students will study the basic element of art ‘movement’ and learn how to manipulate their figure into their favorite dance pose or motion.


  • Create a Musical Instrument
  • Musical Painting
  • ‘Word Art’ – incorporate poetry into a painting or collage
  • Look at ‘My People’ poem by Langston Hughes and the book written by Charles R. Smith and create/illustrate your own version to whichever poem you choose. Create and bind a book of your version of ‘My People’.


  • Research one of the Famous People from the Harlem Renaissance. Create a poster project/collage that we could also photograph and share in a digital gallery online.
  • Study the Great Migration and our ‘Discussion Questions’ listed above to engage students. Create Vocabulary words and definitions.
  • Create a map of Harlem or the Great Migration
  • Study the Jazz movement. Research how the style of music evolved and changed over the decades. How did it change and influence other styles of music not only in America but around the world?

Download the 2022 Black History Month Lesson Plan Ideas 

EDSITEment! The Best of the Humanities on the Web

This ‘Teacher Ready’ website was developed by the Langston Hughes Poetry Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and includes lesson plans, teacher’s guides, videos/media, resources, and much more.

Mr. DeWilde’s Art Blog

Mr. DeWilde has been an art teacher for ten years at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels, currently teaching at Bloomington Junior High School in Bloomington, Illinois. His work has been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Art Education Association, and the Lowell Milken Education Center. He strives to create an inclusive curriculum by developing lessons with a positive representation of diverse artists and issues.  

J.L. Buford T.A.G. (talented & gifted students) Presentation

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