Susan Miller Dorsey High School, affectionately referred to as Dorsey High School, in Central Los Angeles, recently culminated Black History Month activities with a school assembly celebration that featured a rousing-motivational message from national Civil Rights Leader, CEO and founder of Operation P.U.S.H., and international statesman, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and a Harlem Renaissance, Cotton Club-style performance with students imitating and performing as Black leaders and entertainers of that era.
"The theme for our Black History Month Celebration is the Harlem Renaissance." Principal George E. Bartleson said. "It is an opportunity to teach our students about the music, culture, and intellectual energy that was pervasive throughout that historical important era in our past."
Unlike some of the other public schools in the community that are struggling with accreditation and meeting minimal educational standards, Dorsey High School received a three-year accreditation certification in 2007 and has exceeded its academic measurement criteria for the last four consecutive years.
"Our Special Education Department increased their score by 38 points." Bartleson proudly reported. " I attribute our overall academic improvement to several factors including better teacher-performance in the classroom, improved motivation on the part of our students, innovative classroom techniques and activities, and motivation speakers from the outside like Reverend Jackson, Dorsey Alumni, and our own Speaker's Bureau."
"Even though college acceptance letters are still being processed," the principal explained, Dorsey already has 14 students bound for the University of California Los Angeles in the fall, three will be attending The University of California – Berkeley, and one to Yale University, to name a few.
The Dorsey High School Black History Month Celebration was representative of what one might expect at any top-notch school anywhere in the United States. From the motivational message from one of the most influential Black men in the nation to the talented young students who delivered first-class musical, dance, and oratorical performances, Dorsey should most certainly be among the top-rated schools in the state.
Jackson's interactive message to an over-flowing crowd in the school's auditorium was an adapted version of a message he has delivered to numerous high schools throughout the nation. Some time ago, Jackson initiated the idea of a contract between inner-city young people and their parents to ensure their successful matriculation through high school.
Jackson acknowledged the historical significance of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their Los Angeles CEO, Rev. Eric Lee, who introduced him, and their efforts over the years to fight for social and economic justice and to ensure that every child gets the quality education that they deserve.
Jackson followed with a series of interactive affirmations that he asked the students to repeat. As they said them aloud, it appeared as though the entire crowd was in 'synch' with the notion of taking personal responsibility and making the individual sacrifices necessary to do well in school.
"If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it," Jackson recited, as the students repeated, "then I can achieve it… Nothing is too hard for God. Keep hope Alive. Never Surrender. Dorsey is number one!"
Before Jackson ended his presentation, he invited the seniors to the front of the auditorium where he offered special encouragement and a prayer to those planning to graduate in June. Among other missives, he advised them to buckle down and pass the required California Exit Exam and reminded them "no hole is too deep, no mountain is too high and if we slip, we get back up."
The talent portion of the assembly was one of the finest overall performances this reporter has ever seen. The setting was austere yet authentic, the costumes were of the period, and the individual singing, dancing and oratorical performances were exceptionally well delivered and showcased the individual talent and performances of the students.
Besides, it was particularly refreshing to see young people, especially Black teenagers, heartily applauding and genuinely appreciating music, history and culture from a period that, although it laid the early foundation for 'rap-music,' is generations away from an era that their parents and grandparents cherish and hold very dear.
Principal Bartleson, the faculty and staff, and indeed the parents of Dorsey High School students, must be proud of the learning and developmental environment that is being sustained at that particular inner city school. Their Black History Month Celebration, this year, is one that will remain as a student-memory for some time.
"I want our students to be empowered to make the best decisions for their future." Bartleson concluded.