Ypsi schools' Black History Month events include panel discussion, concert, scholarship presentation

From a panel discussion to scholarship opportunities to a musical journey, Ypsilanti Community Schools are offering a slate of activities for Black History Month. All events are free, and most are open to the public.

"This is our third year doing the YCS Black History Month Series, and each year, we see it getting bigger and bigger and having a bigger impact," says series organizer Taryn Willis.

The YCS Black History Month Series kicks off at 11 a.m. on Feb. 13 with a virtual scholarship presentation, which is a collaboration among YCS, the Rotary Club of Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Pan-Hellenic Council for the Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities. The presentation will shine a light on scholarship opportunities available not just to YCS students but to students across Washtenaw County. You can join the event at this Zoom link.

A panel discussion called "Just a Kid from Ypsi" will take place virtually from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 14. The program will highlight the successes of adult alumni of Ypsilanti Public Schools, Willow Run Community Schools, and YCS.

This year's lineup includes local entertainer and musical artist Kid Jay (Jason O'Banner), a YCS graduate. Willis says Kid Jay, 23, is the youngest person to be featured on the "Just a Kid from Ypsi" panel since it started in 2021.

"It's really hard finding a younger person, and he's been trending a lot in the community, so I thought he would be a good fit," Willis says.

Other guests will include nurse and hair braider Tashuana Hall, basketball coach Jesse Davis, educator Lorenzo Brown, politician and 734 Brewery co-owner Brian Jones-Chance, human resources specialist Kenya Glover, county commissioner and PATH career advisor Crystal Lyte, and printer and entrepreneur Travis Willis.

YCS will also hold its second "You Don't Know My Story" student retreat, an invite-only event. Creator Cherisa Allen brings 25 high school boys and 25 high school girls together for a one-day retreat with local leaders. 

"This program came out of the pandemic for me. There were so many of our children at home, some of them in unhealthy or abusive situations," Allen says. "I wanted to remind them that their current situation is not their final destination." 

Ypsilanti Community High School (YCHS) Assistant Principal Horace Stone and Jamall Bufford, project specialist with Washtenaw My Brother's Keeper, will lead the retreat for the boys, while Allen and Willis will lead the girls.

"We want these young ladies to see there are different levels of success. It doesn't necessarily mean making millions of dollars," Allen says. "We have our own heroes and sheroes in Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County."

A performance by the YCHS Choir will round out YCS' Black History Month events. "People Get Ready! A Musical Journey from Black History to the Present" will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Feb. 23 in the high school's auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

More details about all these events are available through the YCHS website or Facebook page.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.
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