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Reading Opens the World and Black History Month with Garrett Heights Elementary/Middle

Black History Month programs have been taking place since Dr. Carter G. Woodson implored Americans to learn and celebrate African-American history back in 1926. The students, faculty, and staff of Garrett Heights Elementary-Middle School (GHEMS) continued in Dr. Woodson’s tradition with a robust celebration involving songs, poems, dances, and skits. The students in the K-8 school, under the guidance of music teacher and member Taniyah Moses, put on a show that the auditorium full of family and friends delightfully enjoyed. Moses found it particularly heartwarming to see the number of families and friends in the audience. She said the presence of so many loved ones in the audience shows that families “really care, they love our children, and they support our children, and that’s what is most important here at GHEMS.”

AFT-Maryland’s team attended to support the students and continue the work of building home libraries and improving literacy among students in Baltimore city. As a part of the Reading Opens the World initiative from AFT, the state federation distributed age-appropriate books that would support and echo many of the stories and lessons shared during the Black History Month program. President Kenya Campbell pointed out the synergy of the books and the occasion of Black History Month: “We were able to bring in books that actually represent Black history - books about folks that were leaders in the community or folks that made history - and just being able to provide those books to students and put them in their hands [...] as an additional learning tool, and to show students as well as their parents that there are books from people of African and African-American descent that reflect them." 

The collaboration was facilitated in part by the good working relationship between AFT-Maryland and the administration at Garrett Heights Elementary-Middle School. Keisha Matthews-Traynham serves as the principal at the school. She is the first to acknowledge that although she is a principal now, she came up as a teacher. She was pleased AFT-Maryland could be a part of the program saying “having AFT [Maryland] come in and support us, just gives us that continuum across the board and lets us know we’re all in this together despite what the titles may be.”

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