KJTMA Celebrates Culture, Literacy

Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy Celebrates Black Culture and Literacy
Posted on 03/10/2023
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Students at DeSoto ISD’s Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy observed Black Children’s Book Week as a closure to the campus’ Black History Month recognition and a bridge to the month of March’s literary focus. This week of multi-layered celebration of Black culture, heritage, and literacy included daily read-ins with district, city, and community members, a book drive, a black author book pop-up shop along with a campus black history performance program.

According to Katherine Johnson’s Elementary Master Teacher and event coordinator Katrina Granger, this campus-wide time of immersive cultural learning for all grade levels helps students to see themselves and learn what is possible.

During the week, several community authors, and district and city leaders spent time reading their favorite black child books to students in elementary and secondary grade levels.

DeSoto ISD School Board Vice President Traci McNairy served as one of the readers during the read-in, sharing her favorite book, The Hue of You, written by her daughter Jade Richardson, who is also a DeSoto High School alumnae, with KJTMA first-graders. This moment left a lasting impression on the young learners.

“When I first heard the story, I was like Wow! It is a black person and a whole black story published by a black person. When I saw it, I was like wow, that’s nice,” shared Nileya Brown, a KJTMA first-grade student who was genuinely captivated by this awareness. “When you see a book like that, it seems like it is your culture, its history to you. When you hear it, it is like you are in a whole other world, just looking and listening. It is mind-blowing.”

Brown was not the only student to observe and connect with this collective learning experience. 

KJTMA first-grader Andre Navarro stated, “I like the book because a real person made it and the person reading the book was also in the story.”

The awareness of the culture in the story also allowed the students to extract some valuable life lessons from the content of the text which dealt with varying skin tones. 

“If you are a darker shade or lighter shade, it does not mean that you should be unhappy with your shade because all shades are beautiful,” Brown explained.

Micah Broussard, also a first-grader, spoke about the emotional lesson he learned from this read-aloud. “You should treat people right because you may hurt their feelings.” 

During the week, campus and district families were invited to partake in a black author book pop-up shop that featured local authors of black children’s books and even some KJTMA students and staff who have also published books. This aspect of the week was designed to help support community authors while exposing and encouraging students to become future history-makers.

Robin Fleming, a KJTMA student, showcased the first book in her Robin-Hood series which she wrote to encourage students to believe in their dreams. KJTMA teacher, Sharmetra Lewis, a long-time author displayed several book titles including The Mystery Snack Snatcher

The campus also hosted its Annual Black History Showcase, themed Future Black History Makers, that featured KJTMA scholars from Kindergarten to eighth grades paying homage to African Americans who paved the way for others and showing how they are making a name for themselves and becoming part of history.

The program was held in the evening before a packed house of KJTMA students and their families, the living museum highlighted notable contributors to black history such as Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael, Queen Hatshepsut, Queen Latifah, and others. Performances by students sharing the famous I Have a Dream Speech, a fashion show of African cultural attire, and the history and tribute to African American music and (HBCUs) historically black college and universities. 

KJTMA Principal Dr. Michelle Neely was caught smiling and enjoying the mesmerizing experience as she expressed her sentiments on the events and desired student experience at her campus.

“I just want students to enjoy being here, learning, and having fun.”

This week’s sentiments align with the district's core values to meet the needs of every student and create a sense of belonging in addition to the district’s vision of creating consciousness, curiosity, and courage opportunities.