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CIS honors MLK, King of Pop

Hundreds of students, faculty and parents crammed into a packed Clanton Intermediate School gymnasium for its eighth annual Black History program. Basketball goals were pushed to the walls and corners to make room for the standing-room-only crowd Friday afternoon.

Repeated throughout the 40-minute assembly, the motto was “Follow Your Dreams,” as students took the stage to sing, dance and quote famous African American leaders.

The CIS students sat on gym floor, as the parents and faculty stood and observed the festivities.

To open several students stood on stage to recite lines from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which were met with welcoming cheers from the hospitable audience.

A collective excitement permeated throughout the room, as the restless children couldn’t wait to see who walked out on stage next, be it some of their fellow classmates or a guest.

More students then came out on stage to perform a waltz set to “A Whole New World” from the Disney film “Aladdin.”

Boys wore white dress shirts and bow ties while girls wore pink evening gowns as they danced through their routine.

The program then recognized the animated film “Princess and the Frog” as the studio’s first full-length movie to feature a black princess, who was represented by a tiara-donning student who walked across stage.

CBS affiliate anchor Emily Ingram then appeared as the program’s guest speaker. The Ripley, Miss., native and Ole Miss graduate commanded the room with pleasant appeal as she spoke to the kids about the effort needed to succeed in school. Ingram sent the room into a playful frenzy with one innocent but divisive question.

“I know what town I’m in, but I want to know where I’m at,” she said before she asked the room to either shout “War Eagle!” or “Roll Tide!” Both were met with thunderous responses, though Alabama had the slight edge.

Ingram reassured the room there was a message hidden under that sudden burst of competition. “You can go to those colleges you’re so passionate about,” she said. “But you have to work very hard.”

She then asked the children to raise their hands if any of them knew what they wanted to be when they grow up. Hundreds of hands eagerly flew up to the surprise of some adults in the room.

“Good Lord,” one amazed man exclaimed.

Ingram continued to encourage children to put in hard work at school so they could achieve those academic and professional goals. Once Ingram finished, the students applauded as she made her exit, and several young dancers took the floor.

Decked out in red T-shirts, black bowler hats and a single white glove on each child’s hand, they prepared their salute to the late Michael Jackson.

Through a choreographed number, the kids strutted across the stage to Jackson’s hit “Man in the Mirror,” as the audience watched and applauded.

The number was followed by a brief slide show presentation featuring iconic images of the cherished pop star.