Alabama students portray Black legends in living wax museum

Published 7:52 am Saturday, March 5, 2022

The mood inside Dothan Preparatory Academy’s gym was solemn, reverent and uplifting on Feb. 28 as its choir’s sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black National Anthem.

Under dim lighting, 7th and 8th grade students dressed as prominent Black historical figures sat still and silent next to their research projects as people attending the “African American Living Wax Museum” quietly observed.

Gavin Wells, 7th grade SGA president, was dressed as influential Civil Rights leader Malcom X because he was inspired by the African American minister’s “by any means necessary” approach to activism.

“I liked what he did, so ever since then, he’s been my favorite Black history figure,” Gavin Wells said. “I love Black history. That’s my favorite thing to learn about… to see what my people have done in life and what we’ve accomplished.”

Jackie Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Barack and Michelle Obama, Mohammad Ali and Michael Jackson were among the other Black history figures that students researched through the month of February and portrayed at the exhibition.

Parents Martina Casey and Candace Wells attended the event to show support and appreciation for Black history, their sons’ work, and the school’s commitment to showcasing important inspirational figures — “it means a lot,” Candace Wells said.

“It really lets all the students at the school get a chance to walk through and maybe learn about one person that they did not know about… Just knowing that they’re eager to learn about it, to get other students involved in it, that’s what made me the proudest.”

Briana Gibson, coordinator of the exhibition, teaches a 7th and 8th grade combined self-contained class for students with disabilities of differing cognitive levels.

“I want (people) to see that my kids are learning like everyone else,” Gibson said. “They love the interaction; they love the collaboration.”

Gibson said the project was for students to dig a little deeper, looking beyond the history books and broad information that they typically see on social media.

She added that she was grateful for the junior high school administration’s support and assistance with the event.

The wax museum wrapped up several days of events celebrating and honoring Black History Month, which included a Black History Walk at Girard Primary School, a Black History Tea at Morris Slingluff Elementary School and a Black History Month Program at Dothan High School.