‘Oh Freedom!’
Students learn about slavery through song

By Kacie Goode, The Kentucky Standard

Gathered on the floor of the gym, students at Bardstown Elementary School listened as Jazmin Salaberrios and Marquese Carter walked them through a series of songs that helped shape history. “As opera singers, it is an honor and privilege for us to use our voices to share with you the stories and struggles of African Americans to freedom and civil rights,” Salaberrios said, introducing the special program from The Kentucky Opera.

The visit last week was part of the district’s ongoing curriculum for Black History Month and coincided with what students at the elementary school had been studying in their classes about slavery and the civil rights movement.

“We try to get some kind of performing arts in front of these kids, tied to something they are learning,” Principal Paul Bowling said. “It is a home run as far as content for the kids.”
Bowling added that Wednesday’s visit was for third and fifth-grade students and that he anticipated a visit from a ballet to perform for the fourth graders.

The Oh Freedom! school tour shares with the students the songs of West Africa and how they were adapted as songs of slavery, codes to help those seeking freedom and as stories of progression and hope. The 40-minute performance progresses through to the Civil Rights movement and the first African American presidency.

“I certainly think it is a good idea to go to schools and educate students about black history,” Carter said after the first performance for third-graders. “Particularly through music.” Not only is it enjoyable for him to share that history in schools, the program is also giving him valuable experience. Last week’s performance at BES was the duo’s second performance together and their third day working together. Both Carter and Salaberrios
were newcomers to the opera as part of an education outreach residency.

After they left BES, they traveled to several other schools in the region to perform as part of the tour, which is designed for third through fifth grade. Deanna Catlett accompanied them on piano.