On Feb. 27, Marion High School (MHS) and its Black History Club will present its annual Black History Month play in a reimagined virtual format.
This will be the 41st annual Black History Month play that the school has presented, but the first that has been presented in a digital format. This came out of necessity due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The change in format caused program sponsor and MHS social studies teacher Bobbie Owensby and her students to reimagine the show. This year, instead of performing in front of a live audience, the program will instead premiere on the Marion Community Schools website and YouTube channel.
“Having to do a virtual play, I think, is very powerful that we are being persistent and dedicated to the cause,” said MHS senior and three-time program participant Camille Scales. “I think it’s very important that we didn’t give up and that we’re putting forth an effort to produce something great, something powerful, and sending a message to the community.”
The traditional play format will be scrapped for this year, as instead the program will be a specially produced video presentation highlighting the lives and work of notable Black history makers.
The program, entitled “The African-American History Makers Museum,” will feature stories and special messages from students regarding the lives of African-Americans who have broken barriers and made history.
The program will go through different historical times, and each of the students will tell the story of a notable African-American through a monologue before revealing the person they are describing.
Students said being able to be a part of the tradition is a humbling experience.
“Every time is different,” Camille said. “This is something that I love to do. I love to do spoken word. I love to do poetry. I like to do public speaking, so to be able to do it amongst other like-minded youth and teens, who also enjoy using the platform that Mrs. Owensby has created within the Black History Club, it’s an honor to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.”
MCS Director of Creative Development, Marketing, and Sales Mark Fauser, who operates independent movie studio Overlook Productions, said he always tries to lend a hand to the program during normal years, but this year he will play a larger role in making the program go smoothly. Fauser will be in charge of editing the program.
“What I’m so proud of is a lot of the kids are writing their own stuff,” said Fauser.
Fauser said that he did not start to write his own scripts and plays until college.
“To have kids at high school already doing it, and doing it as well as they are, it’s beyond impressive to me.”
The initiative the students are taking in the play is something Fauser said he wants to see stick with each of the students in life.
“Kids being assertive is so important because a lot of people think that employers are going to tell them what they want them to do,” said Fauser. “A really assertive person, like these students, are going to create their own world and their own way, and their own path. To me, if a student takes the initiative to do that, it shows the sign of a winner, and I’m seeing a lot of winners with these kids.”
The show gives each of the students a chance to grow as individuals as well.
“I joined my sophomore year,” said senior Navia Berry. “I was thankful enough to get to be the mom in our Aretha play. That was a really good experience for me because even though I was new, Mrs. Owensby trusted me to do it.”
In addition to the yearly play, the Black History Club has presented opportunities to each of the students to learn from the past and look toward the future.
Each year the club takes a trip to a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and does community service projects to benefit the community.
The club carries a sense of family to it that stays with members long after they have graduated, students said.
“We’ve all known each other for a long time now,” said senior Kendall Scales. “We’re all friends, we’re all family, so it’s always been good experiences and memories.”
The Black History Club has also been the recipient of an endowment from the Community Foundation of Grant County named the “Bobbie Owensby Marion High School Alumni Association Black History Club fund.” The fund was established to make sure the club would always have the funds needed to provide access and opportunity for students.
The fund, which was founded last February, has raised more than $22,000 to support the efforts of Owensby and the Black History Club.
“Black history should be something that we all celebrate,” Camille said. “Black History Club is not just for Black people, it’s not just for Brown people, it’s for everyone to come and uplift what we have done, how far we have come and where we are going.”
Visit marion.k12.in.us for more information on how to view the Black History Month production on Saturday.