To the Editor:
I would like to share some positive information about some programs the Fairfield County Museum and some high school classes have been participating in during the month of February, honoring African American History month, but emphasizing the universality of history when it relates to the humanity of our vast melting pot of a nation. Mrs. Kadena Woodard partnered in the project by working with individual students to begin looking up their ancestry. Participating were groups from Fairfield Central High School and from Gordon Odyssey Academy. These groups included individuals from several cultures and racial identities.
I feel strongly that when persons are able to begin their understanding of self by examining the grass growing around their feet, connections begin to form. Pride of self can come from finding the real roots of where we all come from, and from that comes pride in community, and perhaps an enthusiasm for furthering one’s connections to life and participation in the wider community.
The two days we spent with the Gordon Odyssey Academy last week were especially impressive, as we were able to take two groups of these students out to a couple of cemeteries to identify the graves of several former slaves and visit the historic meeting grounds of Camp Welfare in the northeastern part of the county. Not only were the participants well engaged in their attention spans, but they were totally turned on to finding snippets of information about their own family histories. A poignant event was noting one student’s eyes full of tears when she discovered the funeral program for her grandfather. We shared the 1936-37 slave narratives that were recorded of Fairfield County residents born into slavery. These were the very words spoken by the “residents” of the graves we identified, so students the experience of touching the tombstones and treading the ground, while hearing the words of these folks from long ago.
The students who participated in our program were models of respect and enthusiasm. There was no horseplay, no teenage sarcasm, no chitter chatter—all of the usual age-expected behaviors I thought we’d see at least some of. They seemed to all be so amazed at what existed in their home communities that they were unaware of. I believe it was a total success and hope that it gave a spark of enthusiasm to kids who likely hadn’t experienced many learning experiences so engaging!
If this is what is happening in education in Fairfield County on a small scale, then I feel there is a great ray of hope that progress is beginning to be made in some theaters in our schools. The educators with whom we collaborated on these February offerings have been phenomenal.
I have to say this, that “Yes, Virginia, there is a light at the end of the tunnel”.
Fairfield County Museum