Brunswick High students present Black History Month program

Mayor Cosby Johnson cited slain former Brunswick High student Ahmaud Arbery among some of the martyrs of the civil rights movement during an African American History Month presentation Friday at the school.

Johnson was keynote speaker for the program presented by the school’s Social Justice Club.

Johnson said he did not intend to entertain although he knew it was hard to keep an audience’s attention in today’s world of social media and when “life is coming at you all much faster than it came to me.”

He told them, however, that children and young adults are not exempt from “racism, those who would do you harm and snatch your dreams away.”

He cited the stories of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy, abducted, tortured and killed for whistling at a white woman in a grocery store in the Mississippi delta in 1955; the deaths of four young black girls in 1963 when Klansmen bombed a Birmingham, Ala., church; and the deaths of three freedom riders who were murdered and whose bodies were found in an earthen dam in Mississippi.

“I would love to say I could stop there,’’ but he couldn’t, Johnson said.

The day before he had observed the third anniversary of the murder of Arbery, a fellow Brunswick High Pirate who was shot-gunned to death as he ran in a neighborhood off U.S. 17 south.

“Just jogging in a neighborhood, just jogging down a street,’’ Johnson said.

He said it was only because of the persistence of Arbery’s family and others that the people who murdered Arbery were ultimately brought to justice.

He told the students they were the dreams and hopes of slaves, “people drug from their countries and placed on boats” and placed in bondage.

Although roused by Johnson’s speech, the young crowd’s loudest reactions were for substitute teacher LaQuetta Lawrence’s performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and a step routine by members of the African American Studies classes. The routine ended with student Jaiden Brown singing “Stand Up.”

Earlier in the program, Taniyah Battle recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” There were references to the poem several more times in the program.

There were also celebrations of African American leaders and a presentation of historic black colleges and universities and black sororities and fraternities.