Harambee is a student based organization to expand the knowledge of African American history and culture. In Swahili, Harambee means “Let’s All Pull Together”, which is the base for the group’s mission. Harambee also strives to promote diversity and established harmony between different cultures throughout the school and through the community. Harambee activities include social events, fundraisers, community services, cultural field trips, as well as the end of the year show. The club consists of 5 current sponsors. They are Ms. Carnetta Chalmers, Mr. Ken Jones, Mr. John LeCuyer, Ms. Jennifer Sage, and Ms. Audrey Smith. The retired sponsors of Harambee are Mrs. Sharon Carter, Mrs. Susan Jernigan, Mrs. Donna Musselman, Ms. Tafra Perryman, and Ms. Sharon Smegner.
Harambee membership is open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements: Student’s must maintain all grades higher than a “D”. Also, students may not have excessive discipline problems. To remain active, all students must maintain their grades through each grading triad. Students must also demonstrate good character and citizenship. Students may be removed from the organization if these things are not followed. Harambee accepts new membership between September-December.
In 1997, five students, Chris Connor, Valina Kelly, Amber Kroger, Chrishon Terry, and Lisa Stringer, decided they wanted to start an organization that promoted diversity as well as taught African-American culture. The idea was started because these students wanted to have a cultural club for African American culture. At first they tried to join the Multicultural club comitee but were denied because of funding issues. With Ms. Chalmer’s help, the students brought the idea to Dr. Phil Silsby to create a new club called Harambee.
After finally becoming a club, Harambee opened to other members. During the first few years, Harambee hosted their first annual Soul Food Day as well as their first show. The inspiration and dedication of Harambee was featured on News Channel 4. Once the new decade started, Harambee began to die out and the shows were cancelled for three years straight.
In 2003, a group of students expressed interest in bringing back the dance portion after the organization died out. That is when the Harambee show came back. That same year, Harambee members were lucky enough to attend a speech made by Maya Angelou.
In 2004, Harambee received the Racial Harmony Award from the Belleville Human Relations Commission. This was also the first year Harambee went on their end-of-the year trip. The students all went to Memphis, Tennessee.
In 2005, Harambee held a Maya Angelou movie night. In that same year, Harambee performed at the Grizzlies Stadium during the 7th inning stretch. The road trip of 2005 was to Chicago, Illinois.
In 2006, Harambee Poetry was featured in Page One. This year, Harambee focused on local heros. The road trip was to St. Louis, Missouri where Harambee met Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
In 2007, hip hop performed “Romeo and Juliet” at the Shakespeare Festival. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Harambee, all members were required to enter a recipe into the Harambee Cookbook. Chrishon Terry-Sims wrote and performed an original Harambee song. The road trip that year was to Kansas City, Missouri.
In 2008, Harambee was feeling Motown fever. The road trip was to Detroit, Michigan where Harambee met Martha Reeves.
In 2009, the Harambee Facebook page was established. Also Harambee featured some of the first African American inventors, writers, and award winners throughout the years. That year’s road trip was to Atlanta, Georgia where the students visited various museums like the Coca Cola factory.
In 2010, Harambee Rappers performed “Romeo and Juliet” at the Shakespeare Festival. Lyah Beth LeFlore visited Belleville West to talk about her book series The Come Up. Harambee also composed a book trailer for The Come Up: The World Is Mine. Harambee also performed at the Peace Ball Celebration. It was also the first year for an end of the year barbeque.
1998- Kwanzaa, African American Firsts, Gospel Choir, Poetry, Hip Hop (Busta Rhymes-Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See), Finale Song – “Lean on Me”
1999- Little Rock Nine, Poetry, Harambee Band, Hip Hop (Outkast-Rosa Parks), Finale Song – “To Be Young Gifted and Black”
2000-2002 – Show Cancelled
2003 – Hold Fast to Dreams – Langston Hughes Poetry, Praise Dance, Hip Hop, Finale Song – “Lean on Me”
2004 – LEAD – Leadership, Equality, Acecptance, Diversity – Keep the Dream Alive, Civil Rights March, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round, 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education Play, I Have A Dream Speech, Step in the Name of Love, Hip Hop, Finale Song – “I Believe I Can Fly”
2005 – And Still I Rise – Poetry of Maya Angelou, 6 Pillars of Character, Praise Dance, Step, Hip Hop, Guest Speaker – Dr. Eugene Redmond, Finale – “I Rise”
2006 – Local Heroes Honoring Our Own - Thelma Mothershed-Wair, Julius Hunter, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Miles Davis, Katherine Dunham – Original Harambee Poetry, Gospel Choir, African Dance, Rap, Praise Dance, Hip Hop, Guest Speaker – Julius Hunter, Finale Song – “World’s Greatest”
2007 – 10th Anniversary, Original Harambee Song, Praise Dance, Stepping, Hip Hop, Guest Speaker – Dr. Phil Silsby, Alumni Performances, Finale Song – “Lean on Me”
2008 – Motown Tribute, Speakers, Singers, Interpretive Dance, Hip Hop, Guest Speakers – Satin, Finale Song – “Reach Out and Touch” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
2009 – African American Firsts, Harambee Jazz Band, Speakers, Rappers, Poetry, Praise Dance, Trivia Show, Talk Show, Hip Hop, Guest Speaker – William Clay III, Finale Song – “Yes We Can”
2010 – Harlem Renaissance, Poetry, Jazz Band, Ribbon Dance, Michael Jackson Tribute, Hip Hop, Guest Performer – Brian Owens, Finale Song – “Heal the World”
Red Ribbon Rally
Christmas Toy Drive
Feeder School Performances
Soul Food Day
Racial Harmony Performance
End of the Year Trip