The rain couldn’t stop Braima Moiwai from telling stories of his homeland, Sierra Leone, or teaching its songs.
Dozens of students huddled under a tent Friday at Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston to listen to Moiwai sing and play his African drums.
“Wake up, rise up/the time has come for a brand new day/and all you feel deep in your heart/share it in your work and your play,” they sang together.
Moiwai’s presentation was one of seven that about 1,200 students cycled through as part of African American Heritage Day. The event was sponsored by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.
The county does programs through the year to celebrate African-American history, but it wanted to do a larger, special event to recognize African-Americans’ contribution to Charleston history, said Mark Madden, interpretation manager for the parks who oversees its nature and history offerings.
That idea turned into an annual day of demonstrations, reenactments, performances and hands-on experiences, and it’s been held for about the past five years, he said.
The weather didn’t cancel the event, but it did cause many schools to leave early. Stations on topics such as Gullah storytelling, African dance, and Carolina rice and indigo history were set up mostly outdoors, and some didn’t have any shelter from the steady downpour.
“It’s certainly less than ideal, but we’ve been able to get groups through this morning,” Madden said.
Although many students and teachers said the weather put a damper on their day, they appreciated the information that was shared.
“It reinforces what I teach in the classroom,” said Noelle Pietras, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Charleston Progressive Academy.
Fifth-grade teacher Chris Littleton teaches students about plantation crops in the classroom, but she said it’s a different experience to see how rice is removed from its husk.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate the rain spoiled it.”
Eighth-grader Dante Jackson was among those who heard Moiwai’s presentation, and he said he had a good time at the heritage day.
“In the classroom, we learn about it, but we got to experience and see the stuff they went through,” he said. “It’s a part of our culture, and we need to know what they went through so we won’t make the same mistakes and go back.”
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.