By Stan West and Mrs. Peggy Callahan’s Second Grade Class

The issues of “name” and “place” help young students and their parents better understand traditions, histories and cultures that make up their backgrounds and their communities. It helps them appreciate difference and similarities in people.

It also helps them understand and appreciate maternal and paternal heritages; at least that’s the report from 21 awesome pupils in Mrs. Peggy Callahan’s Second Grade class at Oliver Wendell Holmes School who participated every Wednesday morning in March in a human rights storytelling seminar sponsored by Art Start and conducted by this writer-educator-filmmaker. Art Start is fully funded by the Oak Park Education Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to raise non-tax revenues to provide enrichment programs to the greatest number of District 97 students. Understanding that a writer-educator-filmmaker is a storyteller, that’s how students described me in pre-writing assignments.

We began by viewing my documentary, “The Promise Landers,” which features Grace and Ethel Shannon, the first African-Americans to go to Holmes School 100 years ago. Today, Holmes School is headed by an African-American principal named Laurel Muhammad. In addition to video, we used film, books, maps, interviews, journals and language as tools to inquire into “name” and “place.” The journaling, interviewing, mapping, composition, and oral history tools transferred to other academic areas.

Our focus on “name” and “place” coincided with Women’s History Month so we also discussed the roles of women and girls beginning with a rich discussion of a famous female writer, anthropologist and storyteller named Zora Neale Hurston who, 100 years ago, was told by the men and boys of her Eatonville, Florida Black township next to Orlando that only the boys could sit by the campfire and tell stories. Holmes School boys and girls alike rejected the idea that boys could outperform girls in intellectual or athletic activities just because they were dudes. I read aloud Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree by William Miller and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Lee and Low Books). Several said they viewed the Oprah Winfrey Production on ABC-TV of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a TV movie adapted from Hurston’s poignant book of the same name.

Students then asked their parents about their ancestral homes or “places” and the meanings of their names. Here are their cool names: Jocelyn Weisman; Jordin Hale; Derrick Griffin; Madeline Wolfe; Mason Barbury; Vanessa Ocasio; Sydney Dolan; Anna Rossa; Hunter Samson; Eboni Rowe; Natalie Stoner; Jack Punalovich; Marco Manolo; Rebecca Draper; Chris Mayfield; Anna Pedigo; Avery Slade Daniel Fountain; Jacob Barnslater; Hannah Fife; Austin Diaz; Mason Banbury and a guinea pig named Seamus Callahan. All had cool stories.

With a huge map as a backdrop and greetings they recently learned in Somali, the places students mentioned as their ancestral homes included: Jamaica, Mexico, England, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Senegal, Denmark, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Greece, Poland, Wales, Germany, Scotland, Russia, Bahamas, Italy, Holland, Austria, Spain, Bohemia, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Ghana, Croatia, Trinidad and Australia.

At the last class, girl students explained that they would consider being storytellers when they grow up. One girl in particular seemed to have striking narrative ability. Her name was Jocelyn Weisman. She told me the story of her name: “I was named after an African-American woman named Jocelyn who was a friend of her mom and that the nice lady died of leukemia when she was very young.” Jocelyn then went on to tell me a story about how her mom was a professional storyteller, WMAQ-TV reporter Lisa Parker, and how Parker and I last year were awarded the Herman Kogan Media Award from the Chicago Bar Association for the stories we told. The whole class was moved. So was I. And I hope you too will be moved from samples of their oral history assignments on name and place; some even have original pictures that students said would help JOURNAL readers better understand the meaning connected with name and place.

Some of the Holmes students responses?#34;including what their name means, where it comes from, and where their ancestors are from, listed in order?#34;follow.

? Jacob Barnslater: Biblical name. My mom wanted my name to start with a J so she named me Jacob. Some of my brothers and sisters name also start with J.

Hawaii and Arizona

? Hunter Samson: One who hunts. I was named Hunter by my sister Taylor. My sister chose the name off the list of names my mother had. Hungary, England, Sweden and Germany.

? Vanessa Ocasio: Butterfly. My mom always wanted her name to be Vanessa and it’s a pretty name. Puerto Rico.

? Jack Punalovich: Australia. My dad named me Jack because he had many uncles named Jack. Europe, Russia Australia.

? Mason Banbury: Word which means bricklayer. My mom’s maiden name and her three sisters were not going to use that name. England, Scotland and Ireland.

? Sydney Dolan: Old family name came from a city in French. First my Grandma liked Sydney. That was the only name they could agree on. Czechoslovakia, Ghana, Trinidad and Ireland.

? Natalie Stoner: My name comes from natal, which means birth. My mom named me after Natalie Wood. Russia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and England.

? Derrick Griffin: Crane hoisting apparatus. I got my name from Dad. My mom’s sisters came from Greece and Poland. Dad’s ancestors from Africa.

? Eboni Roe: Ebony means dark and strong. I got my name strong as the root of a tree. Africa, West coast. Native Americans, Wisconsin.

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