Home Local News Hamlet Middle’s “RamFest” Encourages Students to be Culturally Aware

Hamlet Middle’s “RamFest” Encourages Students to be Culturally Aware

Hamlet Middle School students pose with Super Bowl champion and Richmond County native Perry Williams during RamFest 2017.

HAMLET – RamFest at Hamlet Middle School began during Jim Butler’s term as principal, and current principal, Karen Allen, has continued the great tradition in allowing students to become more culturally aware and versed in the arts.

This year, RamFest included many culturally diverse acts that showcased several types of artists and artisans from across the state.

The two-day event began Monday, November 20, as students started the day off with a bang (quite literally). They got to watch and enjoy performances by the Richmond Senior High School Drum Line. After the performance band students from Hamlet got the opportunity to talk with the drum line about what it is like to be a Marching Raider.

While waiting on the Richmond Senior High Chorus to arrive students got a full magical experience from Glen Magic and Comedy. He had the students laughing and astounded as he completed illusion after illusion.

When the RSHS Chorus arrived, they performed some of their more traditional holiday pieces to begin, but moved into a comedy song for the middle schoolers. The song related to the awkwardness of some 21st century relationships through technology, and the students got a real kick out of the lyrics.

Richmond Senior chorus director, Erin McNair, remained onstage for the next performance. Rockingham Middle School’s chorus teacher Lauren Lutz, and Hamlet Middle’s music teacher, Deondra Morrison, joined McNair. The three went on to sing two beautiful songs that showcased their talents.

The next act had some big shoes to fill, but did them flawlessly. Ramona Moore Big Eagle had a cultural experience prepared for RamFest. Big Eagle is a Native American storyteller. The story she told was one passed down to her by her father and her elders. The moral of the story was that there are snakes in life, and the students know the snakes because their parents, teachers and other elders have warned them of the snakes in life.

After lunch, the students enjoyed the sounds of the Pantasia Steel band. They learned about the Caribbean origins of the instruments and listened to sounds of their childhood such as “Under the Sea” from a Disney classic movie The Little Mermaid.

Wrapping up the first day, students got active as they line danced their way through the gym with state champion line dancing group Journey.

Coming into the second day of RamFest students were even more excited for the day ahead of them.

The day began with a segment called “Hometown Heroes,” where local performers showed students what talents they possessed. During this time, Richmond Senior High School teachers Whitney Smith and Julie Roscoe sang, Dennis Quick of Richmond County Schools and Dr. Mary Catherine Moree, as well as Gabrielle Robinette of Tri-City and Seth Allen of the Chamber of Commerce danced (both couples recently performed in Richmond County Hospice’s Dancing with the Stars). Also, ninth graders and former Red Rams Jaiden Tillman (singer) and Robert Hodges (pianist) performed two songs, and Hamlet Red Rams bus driver Mr. Jackson’s church came to share their singing talents.

Following the Richmond County talent, a local gospel choir from Mt. Sanai got up and performed amazing renditions that really got the heart and soul of their songs through to the students, but their performance didn’t end there. The gospel choir had a surprise for Hamlet Red Rams – Perry Williams.

Williams is a former two-time NFL Super Bowl champion as a New York Giant, and a former Richmond Raider football player. He talked about his journey which he called his “toilet bowl story.” He had the kids’ full attention.

He shared with the students that he, “had a dream at 11 years old that he was going somewhere.” Every student sat straight up when he said that age. All of the students at Hamlet Middle are 11 years or older.

“I was going to make something positive happen in my life. I was watching television and I said ‘Mama, one day I’m going to be on TV. One day, I’m going to play NFL. One day, I’m going to play in the Super Bowl’,” Williams explained. “You can only imagine back then in Richmond County…I don’t know if she was trying to use reverse psychology, but she looked at my brother and rolled her eyes and kind of chuckled a little bit and said ‘yeah you want to talk about playing pro football, being on TV, talking about playing the Super Bowl, but the only one you’d be playing in is the toilet bowl’.”

The students got a kick out of that piece of history, but they knew he wasn’t done. They were on the edge of their seats to hear his secret.

“Fourteen years later I was in my first Super Bowl,” Williams continued. “I remember getting ready to play against a great team called the Denver Broncos, when Denver had a great quarterback named John Elway.”

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He continued to talk about a phone called that went on between himself and his mother the night before in which she said to him, “go and do what you do, and make sure you take care of his business.” But before he hung up the phone he asked his mom one question – “Hey mama! What do you think about that toilet bowl kid now?”

His story is one that really spiked interest in the students, because Richmond County is filled with great athletic programs. However, he had one more thing to say.

“What is the moral of my story,” asked Williams. “Believing is achieving. When you believe, you will achieve. You’re looking at a living example of what you can do if you believe. From the Sandhills of North Carolina, Hamlet, North Carolina, Richmond County North Carolina, all the way to Raleigh, North Carolina, North Carolina State University, all the way to New Jersey for the New York Giants for eleven years, two Super Bowl championships. Why did I believe? Because I kept God close to me.”

He went on to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr. All of the quotes encouraged the students to “lead by example,” not to have “idle minds,” and to believe.

He ended by saying, “if you can fly in life, fly. If you cannot fly, run. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. By all means keep moving.”

After Williams’ speech, the choir finished their last song and handed the torch to the next performance which has been a crowd favorite for the last three years.

Stephanie Burke is an artist who has performed for people such as former President Barack Obama. She has been at RamFest the last two years, and each year at least one of her pieces has been placed on the walls of the Hamlet hallways.

This year she told the students a story about truths. Her last truth, and most important truth of the day was that, “sometimes in life what appears to be our greatest mistakes, even a failure, can just be a step on the road to success.”

This last truth led her to tell a story about a huge mistake with her hair that took two years to correct, but that led to her most financially successful day of her life. While this example may have sounded simple to the students, she went back to relate it to the history learned in the classes of Hamlet Middle.

She stated that the, “idea of our mistakes actually becoming later on successes is nothing new. There are people who have learned this. They’ve had lives in the palm of their hand. They’ve been responsible for life or death, and there have been people who have decided the fate of young nations even.”

This transitioned into her first painted of 16th President Abraham Lincoln, who has been viewed as arguably the most successful and popular President to date. However, Lincoln was voted into presidency with the least amount of votes of any president, led the nation during the secession of the South and the Civil War, and barely made it in for the second term. Burke explained that Lincoln was one of the most hated men during his terms, but now he is a great success known amongst American people today.

When finished with this live painting demonstration, she talked about Lincoln’s background and the division during his term. She related this to America today and talked of how we have to stand united because we are better together than apart.

It was after this that she did a two-part painting upside down, that when flipped over after completion, showed Lady Liberty holding her torch with the American flag in the background.

To finish out the day, Black Water Rhythm and Blues Band came to play for the students. They played contemporary music along with blues and rock. Students and teachers got up, danced, and sang getting out their energy and enjoying each other’s company along with the wonderful music.

This year’s RamFest was deemed as a success by Allen, and she’s thankful for all the participants for showcasing their cultural talents.

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