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Calavera Hills Middle School eighth-grader Kayla Mora reads her poem celebrating Black History Month during last week’s poetry reading at the school. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Middle school students celebrate Black History Month through poetry

CARLSBAD — More than 70 people packed Calavera Hills Middle School for a student-led poetry reading, celebrating and honoring Black History Month.

More than a dozen eighth graders from Stacy Salz’s U.S. history class read their poems in a makeshift café atmosphere during the February event.

Their topics ranged from slavery to abolitionist Frederick Douglass and activist Ruby Bridges.

“We began with a really in-depth look at slavery,” Salz said. “At the end of it, I decided to try something new and have them write a poem. As I started reading the poems, I was just blown away about what they gleaned.”

Salz said her American history course incorporates the horrific conditions slaves had to go through, although some of the topics broached by her students were on material the class has yet to cover.

Salz has also shown the class portions of the classic “Roots” series and parts of “Ruby Bridges” a movie that details Bridges’ desegregation of a New Orleans school when she was 6 in 1960.

Salz’s class, though, has yet to reach the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the subsequent legislation to provide racial equality to all citizens.

Students from all backgrounds stood tall before the audience, reading their poems — some of which addressed the atrocities, while others applauded those crusaders.

Eighth-graders Gavin Solarez, Branden Linter, Tiffany Levya and Astrid Lao all said the event was heartfelt, and gave an appreciation for those who fought for what was right.

“I wasn’t too nervous because it was mostly people I know,” Linter said. “Seeing how slavery was and how much we’ve improved to equality for all, it’s changed a lot. There is still some racism in the world, so doing this may have opened some people’s eyes to what it was like to be a slave.”

“It’s really important today to recognize Black History Month,” Lao added. “It gave me the confidence to read my poem.”

Levya said the structure of the curriculum made the poetry reading more interesting and insightful.

“We have a lot more respect to all the leaders,” she said of the black leaders. “It makes us appreciate them more.”

Salz, meanwhile, set up the event in conjunction with the CHMS PTSA and initially was hoping to host it at a local café. The parents, due mostly to last-minute preparations, said the school would serve as a better venue.

Salz said she plans on making the poetry reading an annual event, and called it “one of the highlights of my teaching career.”

“I think it would be a really great tradition to have,” she added.