The 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc. hosted the African American History Academic Challenge of Dane County’s regional competition at the Verona Area High School Performing Arts Center on the night of April 5. After a fierce night of competition, Verona High School’s team and Savanna Oaks Middle School in Verona will be heading to the African American History Academic Challenge national competition in Las Vegas in June.
Districts represented at the event included the Madison Metropolitan School District, Sun Prairie Area School District, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, and the Verona Area School District. Teams from these school districts around Dane County had won their local competitions on the previous Wednesday.
The African American History Academic Challenge is an education and scholarship program designed to enhance and ignite the study of African American history among youth and increase their interest in knowing and better understanding the legacy of African American ancestors.
At the regional competition, teams were separated into the Junior Division for middle schoolers and the Senior Division for high schoolers. The schools present for the Junior Division were Prairie View Middle School from the Sun Prairie Area School District, Wright Middle School from the Madison Metropolitan School District, and Savanna Oaks from the Verona Area School District.
Questions spanned areas of Black cultural history such as: What was the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday? Along with questions on Black political history such as: Who was the first Black federal court judge and first Black governor of the Virgin Islands?
Dr. Floyd Rose, president of 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc., remarked talked about the importance of rigor and dedication to preserving and engaging with Black history.
“The questions, I think you would say, were somewhat challenging, and rightfully so,” Dr. Rose shared with the audience. “What we endeavor to do is to try to create a platform where academic rigor is on the same par with that of athletics and other extracurricular activities. We are very blessed to see the enthusiasm of the students but equally impressed with the care and encouragement by you parents and caregivers and teachers.”
The Wright Middle School team of Lars Olson, Atavia Johnson, and Rhaniyah Grant were able to take the semi-final round against the Prairie View Middle School team composed of Lisa Dabose, Morimoussou Sissoko, and Calia Wright. However, Wright Middle School ultimately lost in the finals against the Savannah Oaks team composed of Zander Hamoonga, Tsinat Mamo, and Habib Ogunmola.
Educators and coaches attended with their teams and were there for support with both the Junior and Senior Division, the latter consisting of Sun Prairie East High School from the Sun Prairie District, La Follette High School from the Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area High School from the Verona District, and Middleton High School from the Middleton-Cross Plains School District.
“The educators that we have the pleasure of working with are beyond comprehension, for their dedication, and for their assistance in every way, shape, or form to help that child from point A to point B,” said Dr. Rose. “I know sometimes it seems as though we might be at odds with education, but from everything that we can gather, it has been a heck of a deal. We would not be able to do the things that we’re doing without them.”
The Middleton team, consisting of Sara Anderson, Jeana Sabally, and Jayvyn Graves, went against the Madison La Follette team of Elijah Lin and William Booker in the first semi-finals for the Senior Division resulting in a tie that ended in La Follette’s favor when they were able to answer who was the first Black man to serve in Senate — Hiram Rhodes Revels.
The same question was also the tie-breaker for the next semi-finals between the Verona team of Jamesha Crowder, Sidney Moore, Heaven Barlow, Nana Ampong, Abdoulie Trawalley, and Tayveon Howard, and the Sun Prairie team of Rondall Garner Jr., Neveah Tolson-Evans, and Kiya Dixon. Verona was able to answer the tie-breaker question correctly and moved on squeezing out a victory over La Follette for their spot in the national competition in Las Vegas, Nevada this summer.
Dr. Rose ended with words of thanks for educators, parents, and participants, as well as a moment to remember Madison area educator Beth Steffen.
“She was an amazing educator in every way, shape and form. I know that she’s looking down and smiling at this point,” Dr. Rose said of Beth Steffen, the late Badger Ridge Middle School principal who passed earlier this year.
“She had put together a program where there were 46 children involved just from her middle school. The enthusiasm was just beyond comprehension. That is a testament to what she was about, which is children come first. Encouragement comes first, and we need to do whatever we need to do to make that happen.”