Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Today Kaiser School had two assemblies for Black History Month. The primary grades went to the 9:00 assembly. I was a little doubtful. There was an African American man on the stage. There were hats on a stand; he had handkerchiefs hanging out of his pocket; he had on huge white glasses (no lens) a tux coat, slacks, polka dotted socks, and a red vest. He looked like a cross between a bad magician and a clown. This was going to be so very bad.

Well I was wrong. Unique Derique is a clown, a very good clown. He has the rubber face of a Bill Cosby or Jerry Lewis. He had the children and adults stand up and do lots of classic clown faces and movements. We also did some hambone and pattin' juba dance. We laughed until we cried, literally. This man had total control of the room. Anything he asked for, the children did; including sitting down and being still.

Derique is a hambone and pattin' juba dance artist. He is also an educator. He works in schools to teach the sad history of Blackface and Minstrels. He clearly showed the children it is OK to laugh at a clown, that we like to laugh when someone makes a mistake. And he very clearly taught them how wrong it is to laugh or mock any one's culture or race. He gave them an age appropriate lesson on slaves, blackface, and minstrel shows. He had pictures and stories. The man is good.

I think I was the only person in the room old enough to have seen a live Minstrel Show. I knew as a child separate bathrooms, water fountains, places on a bus were wrong. But Minstrels, that was considered fun. In the 50's we really did not think blackface was racist or hurtful. That was our lack of knowledge of the history of Minstrels.

I hope you will take the time to read each link. The information is very interesting.