African-Americans have played a key role in the development of the United States and continue to have a tremendous impact on communities like El Paso, students at Andress High learned during the school’s annual Black History Celebration this week.
“We want to honor, uplift and recognize the important contributions that African Americans have made,” said Melissa Stokes, the parental involvement assistant at Andress. “Many of these contributions are not recognized in the history books. The books always start with slavery, but that’s not where our history began.”
The Northeast school has celebrated Black History Month for years with one of the largest gatherings of historians and influence-makers in El Paso. The celebration at Andress on Thursday was attended by students, teachers and community members.
The Andress color guard kicked off the celebration with the presentation of colors and singing of the national anthem by Brown Middle School teacher of the year Anthony Stokes.
“I think that’s important that students learn that Black history is so rich,” Anthony Stokes said. “At Brown, I have the students do a project on Black artists – both current and some historical. I want them to learn about people who have made a difference in society and an impact in their respective field.”
The theme of this year’s celebration was African Americans in Times of War, and the celebrations included a Buffalo Soldiers reenactment by EPISD Trustee Chuck Taylor.
Johnson was a Specialist with the U.S. Army when she was captured and held as prisoner for 22 days during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
At Andress, she spoke about finding the strength to overcome the experience.
“When we were rescued, all I kept thinking was ‘I’m going home.’ Before I deployed, I used to watch those Lifetime movies where when something bad happened I thought ‘I would have a heart attack if that happened to me,’” she said. “When we were captured, I kept waiting for a heart attack, but it didn’t happen. Sometimes you don’t know how strong you are until you are tested. You are stronger than you think you are.”