After going dormant a few years ago, the Belleville East Mashiriki club is coming back in a big way.
Sponsor Ian Hendricks said students approached him about helping them re-establish the group, which was originally founded in 2006, to celebrate cultural diversity through things performances such as drumming, hip hop, mime, poetry, praise dance and step. After the 2013-14 school year, Hendricks agreed to take over sponsorship of the club.
“It was dormant before I got here three years ago,” Hendricks said. “Students asked me to sponsor it and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I said yes. But they were very passionate about it and it’s important to encourage passion. So, I agreed to do it and now it’s growing again.”
Since its rebirth, Mashiriki has built up to include 30 full-time members with an additional 30 students who have expressed interest in joining. Like its sister program at Belleville West, the Harambee multi-cultural group, Mashiriki was originally built around a centerpiece performance usually scheduled to take place during Black History Month, February. But, since it’s been rekindled, Mashiriki has performed year round in assemblies, homecoming activities and talent shows as opposed to being its own showcase.
Hendrick said the scaled down version is a good place to start. But he’s eager to see the multicultural club re-establish its own show so it can include several different performances.
“Last year we had so many kids come forward that we couldn’t allow them all to perform,” Hendricks said. “But we plan to keep growing in the future so we can have room to include everyone.”
Mashiriki features smaller performances that travel throughout the school year to District 201 feeder schools.
“We do about a 45-minute program of song and dance then the students spend about a half hour sitting down and talking with the students at the schools where Mashiriki performs,” Hendricks said. “Seventh and eighth graders look up to high schoolers and it’s a good chance for the younger kids to learn about what they’ll be experiencing in a year or two.”
The visit also serves as a recruiting tool for Mashiriki, exposing the club to incoming students who may be inspired to join when they arrive at Belleville East.
Just like other extra-curricular activities, members of Mashiriki must keep their grades up and have a good personal conduct record in order to be eligible to participate. Those requirements help the club in its mission to build character and develop personal responsibility, important parts of the education mission, according to Hendricks.
“It’s very exciting to watch the students in Mashiriki grow,” Hendricks said. “The younger ones come in and bring a lot of energy and the older ones are the leaders. Juniors know it’s their turn to step up to the plate and they’re going to have to dream up what the group is going to do next year.
Hendricks said the group will be participating in the second-annual BE Convo in the spring. Stay tuned for announcements about a show for Mashariki.