Creative writing students produce biographies for Black History Month


Fiona Duke

Paw Print reporter Alex Hliatzos interviews English teacher Kari Beery about her students’ research and written work.

Alex Hliatzos, Staff Writer

The students in Kari Beery’s creative writing class recently wrote biographies for the new Black History Month posters that feature contemporary African-American figures, which can be accessed via QR codes on the posters.

Beery’s students conducted research through a variety of primary and secondary sources. She said, “In any type of writing experience, we want to make sure the information you get is accurate, that it comes from a credible source, so we have been using a lot of governmental records. We’re going to have things from the national archives that fuel that kind of research.”

According to Beery, the biographies include information about the individual’s background. She said, “Since they are a living legend and an inspirational figure and leader, who is this person, where do they come from, what are their origins?”

Another paragraph will include information about the individual’ s contribution to their respective field. Beery said, “At Mayfield, we would like to see the application, to see the value in math, language arts, or history. So this is kind of the question: how do these tenets of content, how does that tendril into your life and take shape?”

While Beery’s class did internet research for nearly all of the featured African-Americans, they did get to complete one personal interview by speaking directly with superintendent Dr. Michael Barnes for his biography. Dr. Barnes said, “[The interview] was outstanding! I was nervous – there were rapid-fire questions coming at me, but I really enjoyed it. Any time I get to reflect and talk as part of an interview, it gives me a chance to walk back and appreciate my journey, even more so.”

Dr. Barnes sees the posters as a continued celebration of the rich and diverse contributions of Americans. “Being able to see the diverse contributions, as a part of this exercise, is another learning experience for our school. I’m hopeful that it’s just awareness, celebration, appreciation of contributions, and, greater understanding that we are all in this together,” he said.

Creative writing student Sarah Fricke wrote about Amanda Gordan and Valerie Thomas. Fricke said, “Each person in our group was assigned a different paragraph to write about. For Valerie Thomas, I wrote about how she impacted everyone, and so I did the research about what she did and how that influenced the people around her, and what obstacles she faced.”

Creative writing student Jaime Israel wrote about Joseph Drew Lanham, which was a more challenging task. “Most of the current leaders are people you’ve heard of before, but a lot of people haven’t heard of him, so it was hard to find sources that actually talk about him. He wrote a book about his life, so that’s where we got the information from,” Israel said.

Beery said that she learned a lot when researching. “So, there’s the research understanding how influential all people are to a community, and how every voice is contributing. I think in the process we found out too that some voices are not included, representation was limited for much of our history,” she said.

According to Beery, collaboration is a key factor in the project. “For us to work with a graphic design department, for us to be in constant conversation—it is a team effort. I think a lot of the time we forget that we all need to be able to collaborate and work in these timelines and these deadlines, and when we do, there’s a real creative process that can be nurtured here,” she said.

Beery said she is thankful that her creative writing class was invited to this project. “Mr. [Mike] Caldwell and others were very inclusive to try to see how many different classes they could pull in, and as a result of their insight and their vision, it was really cool the things we were able to do in a short period of time, and I hope the collection is something Mayfield can be proud of,” she said.

The Black History Month posters will remain hanging outside the main office until March 10. To view the biographies written by the creative writing class, click here.