Students get glimpse of Southampton’s Black History

Published 10:55 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fourth and fifth graders, including Miles Bland, left, Chloe Pope and Jonah Blythe sing “Free at Last” -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Fourth and fifth graders, including Miles Bland, left, Chloe Pope and Jonah Blythe sing “Free at Last” — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

NEWSOMS—To bring Black History Month into perspective for students that they could both see and understand, Meherrin Elementary School brought in local history makers.

“The main purpose was to let children see who is around them in the community,” said principal Syretha Wright. “And so that they could see what they could become.”

Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish expanded on that thought.

“It gives us an opportunity to become the market of hope for the children,” she said. “It shows the students people who were once like them who were able to change the community.”

The school honored Gurnie Blunt, who had the first African-American owned bus company that could transport people out of state; Samuel Sykes, who was the first African-American elected to the Southampton County Board of Supervisors; Dallas Jones, chairman of the board of supervisors; the Faisons, Lily and Carl, who have opened up an outreach center, and Carl is on the board of supervisors; James McGee, who is a local historian and artist; Greg Scott, former NFL Player and CEO of the Cover 3 Foundation; Mayor Raystine Ashburn-Johnson, the first African-American mayor of Franklin; Judge Alfreda Harris, the first African-American female judge in her district; Charles Turner, the first African-American superintendent of the Southampton County Public School Division; Parrish, the first female African-American superintendent; and Wright, who was the first female African-American principal of Boykins and then Meherrin elementary.

“You are all a model for the students,” said Parrish. “Seeing history makers shows them that they have an opportunity to make a difference in their community.”

Carl Faison said it was as much of an opportunity for him as it was the children.

“It’s always great to go back in the schools because it gives you an opportunity to see what the kids are doing,” he said. “It is always inspiring to see what these teachers are doing with these children.”

Jones said that he thought the program was wonderful.

“I am on the board for the kids,” he said. “I represent the kids, as well as their parents. I am very proud to do that.

“I’m proud they asked me to be here to be honored.”

Scott said he was happy to be thought of in the same breath as some of the other leaders.

“The kids were awesome,” he said. “It was a wonderful event to be a part of.”

Wright left the children with a thought — that they were already difference makers.

“You are already making a difference in our lives,” she said. “Yes, we teach you, but you also teach us new things every day. We teach each other.

“Just remember, history is made every day. One day, we hope that it is you up here we are honoring.”