Guests share history lesson at Burr Ridge Middle School
Middle School health aide and book club founder Wendy Williams introduces her sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and James Turner, as living historians for the Black Panther movement. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 2:12AM
BURR RIDGE — The afterschool book club at Burr Ridge Middle School heard Tuesday from two people who lived through the civil rights movement in Chicago.
The talks by Sharon and James Turner followed the club’s discussion of two fictional books — One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia and The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon — both about the role of the Black Panther Party. Read in observance of Black History Month, the books offered unique views of the group’s role in history.
“They weren’t a gang. They weren’t outlaws,” said Sharon Turner, who was a young adult in Chicago when the Black Panthers became active in the 1960s.
Often known for their militant and even violent actions, Turner said the group did good things for the community, including feeding breakfast to children at neighborhood schools.
Their message was of unity, but their methods of sending that message often overshadowed their intent, said Wendy Williams, leader of the book club and health aide at the school.
Student Nancy Diaz said she knew little about the Black Panthers before reading The Rock and The River and hearing the Turners speak.
“They might know more than the people who wrote the stories, because they were there,” Diaz said.
“It was a turbulent time,” James Turner told students. “You live in good times.”
Events continue throughout February at Burr Ridge Middle School in recognition of Black History Month.
Daily announcements will share a fact of the day with students about African-Americans who have made a positive contribution to society.
A school-widequiz contest will challenge students to learn more about important events and people in Black History. Those who score 90 percent or higher will be entered into a raffle for prizes.
The month will culminate on Feb. 26 with an all-school assembly featuring Urban Gateways. The professional group will present an interactive, multimedia concert that explores the history of African-American music.