April 4, 2019

Fourth Graders Shine in “A Spark of Freedom”

On March 15th, our 4th graders treated a packed Playspace to “A Spark of Freedom”—a play that traces the desegregation of schools in California, starting with the Mendez v. Westminster case.

In 1945, the Mendez family, along with four other families of Latino descent, filed a class action suit in a US District Court against four Orange County school districts to argue that segregated schools were not of equal quality. Two months after the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the governor of California signed a bill making California the first state to officially desegregated schools. In 1955, Thurgood Marshall presented the final arguments used to win the Mendez v. Westminster case, which strengthened his argument before the Supreme Court during the Brown v. Board of Education trial.

This five-act play examined not only the personal and historical drama behind these cases but also their legacy up to the Obama administration. Four of the five acts of the play were written by the students themselves after studying the issues and historical events in class. Students also chose their parts based on the point of view they wished to portray and worked with teachers to craft realistic dialogue. In each of the scenes, the students also sang songs—ranging from Cole Porter to Fleetwood Mac—that was authentic to the historical time period in which the play is set. Throughout the play the colorful scenery and historically accurate costumes shifted continuously, providing the perfect visual accompaniment to the kids’ performance.

Thank you to the Directors, our fourth grade teachers Matt Hadick and Nicola Berlinsky, Musical Director Beth Sorrentino, all of the parents and members of the Oakwood community who leant their help and support, and—most of all—to the playwrights and performers, our fourth grade students, for this incredible, educational performance!