Mt. Pleasant, Kelly students hear first-hand account of civil rights movement

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Fifth-grade students at Mt. Pleasant and Kelly elementary schools heard the experiences of Anthony Lyons, a long-time West Orange resident who experienced the civil rights movement first-hand in the 1960s.

Lyons’ Feb. 18 visit to Mt. Pleasant capped off an educational day for the students, who first visited the MAYO Performing Arts Center in Morristown to see a dramatic performance recounting the life of Harriet Tubman. Lyons arrived in the afternoon to grandson Christopher Perry Meredith’s fifth-grade classroom, where teacher Wendy Japaz had a Google video Hangout set up with Kelly fifth-grade students and teachers.

“Providing the students with a primary source gave them an opportunity to listen to a real person’s perspective of events and allowed them a chance to ask questions,” Japaz said. 

In addition to the Google Hangout, Mt. Pleasant and Kelly students collaborated on a Padlet where they shared their learning and reflected on their experience. Christopher wrote and performed two raps detailing what he learned about segregation and another one about how slavery began in America. 

Like most students in the West Orange School District, Mt. Pleasant students have been working diligently to celebrate Black History Month. The new year began with civil rights studies from pre-Civil War up to the 1960s and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. 

“To honor Dr. King, our fifth-grade students visited all Mt. Pleasant classrooms to teach the younger students what they learned and the message behind Dr. King’s Day of Service,” Japaz said. “We decided to pay it forward by collecting donated books and writing kind messages in them. These books will be donated to local laundromats for children to enjoy.”

Photos Courtesy of SOMSD