Brain bowl, spelling bee honor black history

Spelling Bee champion Ranesha Boston, second from left, recites a word during the 2010 King Celebration 5th Grade Spelling Bee at the MLK Multi-Purpose Center on Thursday, January 14, 2010.

Aaron E. Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.

Since October, they've been studying a list of words and questions.

On Thursday night, 26 students got to put all their practicing into action at the 2010 Black History Cultural Brain Bowl and Spelling Bee at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-purpose Center.

Participants represented a broad range of organizations. In the spelling bee, for instance, they were sponsored by the Alachua County Housing Authority and Gainesville Housing Authority. Organizations represented by students in the Brain Bowl included Precious Pearls, Mt. Olive A.M.E. and Reichert House Youth Academy. Showers of Blessing Harvest Center and Monteocha New Life Christian Center had students participating in both events.

But the event was much more than just a spelling bee and brain bowl.

Performing were the Flossie McClendon Drill Team and the Eastside High School Gospel Choir, Also, a xylophone rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was performed by the Star Christian Academy.

Five students competed in the fifth-grade spelling bee - in which every word described people, places and things pertaining to black history.

In the brain bowl, for kids in grades 6 to 12, students were given separate questions beforehand and came together in teams to answer questions.

Some soared with questions like, "What was the slogan for the Tallahassee boycott in 1956?" while a judge's ruling had to be reached on "What was Oprah Winfrey's birth name?"

The first place trophy for the spelling bee went to Ranesha Boston from Showers of Blessing Harvest Center for spelling "discriminate." Azalea Torres, representing the Gainesville Housing Authority, finished first runner-up.

Students representing Showers of Blessing Harvest Center also won the brain bowl against Mt. Olive, winning 16 to 12. Members of the winning team were Olexia Ellis, Janiah McKay, Sequinta McCeary, Jermonica Williams and Ariel Word. Winners received certificates and trophies.

Although not everyone left a winner, the students learned a lot about black history, which is not a large part of their school curriculums, organizers said.

Freddie Williams, director of the Woodland Park Boys & Girls Club, said he saw the benefits of teaching historical terms to the kids when he was coaching students from Gainesville Housing Authority for the spelling bee.

"When they see words like desegregation and disenfranchisement, they want to spell them out and learn the definition," he said. "It opens them up to a new avenue and they learn about things they do not talk about in school.

Natalie King, a teacher at Eastside High School, said the spelling bee and brain bowl gives students a different historical education than what they receive in school.

"It's not something they are taught in school," King says. "Unless they had the brain bowl, they would know nothing about their history."

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