From January to March, a team of six young people worked on memorizing over 400 facts about black history for four hours each week. The result? A $1,500 prize awarded to them on Saturday evening.
On March 16 from 12-4 p.m. in the Elizabeth G. King Gymnasium of the Boys and Girls Club of Athens, the seventh annual Athens Area Black History Bowl saw five teams compete against each other for prizes and the winning title.
The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office Posse, a youth group led in-part by Athens-Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards, won first place, its team members reveling after a third-place win last year, said Gimena Gutierrez and Kristine Huaman, both participants.
“This week we practiced every day, but Friday, for four hours,” Huaman said.
This year, first place was guaranteed a $1,500 prize, second place a $900 prize and third place a $600 prize.
Public officials in attendance included District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport, Municipal Court Judge Ryan Hope and District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link, whose district includes the Boys and Girls Club of Athens.
“This is such a wonderful event … Thanks to all the kids who have spent their spring breaks studying, it’s awesome,” Link said.
The event was emceed by Barbara “Lady B” Sims and included statements from many of its organizers and supporters. Tawana Mattox, Clarke County school board District 9 representative, gave a brief explanation of the bowl’s significance.
“The purpose of our bowl is to ensure that all children, all adults, learn the history of African Americans,” Mattox said. “We hope that it trickles down to the parents and also to all of us here as the community.”
During each round, four team members answered one question each, individually, worth 5 points. All five-point questions come from a study guide sent out to the teams' coaches last December in preparation for the competition and varied in difficulty and complexity.
Bonus questions, worth 10 points each, were solely focused on facts from the book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” which participants studied from in preparation. All questions were prompted by judges Hattie Lawson and ACC Chief Magistrate Judge Patricia Barron.
The Black History Bowl represents a space for people, young and old, to gain a broader understanding of black history and celebrate the history which isn’t mentioned with the same enthusiasm as the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., said Lemuel "Life" LaRoche. He’s been attending the bowl since the first event seven years ago.
Specifically, the bowl provides its young participants with a learning opportunity.
“A person don’t know where they come from, they don’t know where they’re going,” LaRoche said. “There’s so much more to who we are and who we were, this is a way of really just shining that, and I really appreciate that.”
Teams were tested on material regarding national, state and local black history, including historic landmarks and individuals. Questions fell within nine categories. Each team had at least five members from fifth to 12th grade, and according to the rules of the bowl, every member has to answer at least one question.
The first preliminary round saw the Youth Academy of In-Touch Management, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office Posse and Atlanta ASALH — Teams A, B and C, respectively — battle it out in three rounds of questions. Some questions regarding Athens street names and historical sites stumped competitors.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and Clarke Middle School went head-to-head in the second preliminary round as Teams D and E. The Mount Pleasant Baptist Church team took home first place in 2018, upholding its legacy in this year’s preliminary round by answering most questions correct.
Moving onto the championship round, the Mount Pleasant and In-Touch Management teams started off neck-and-neck with 65 points each. The round ended in an additional tie-breaker round between the Sheriff’s Posse and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, with the Posse emerging victorious. Mount Pleasant got second and In-Touch Management got third.
One group leader for the In-Touch Management team, B.B Calloway, thinks that the bowl should be advertised in a way that invites more students from multiple backgrounds. Clarke Middle was the only team including students from the same school, while the four other groups brought together young people from around the community.
“Other than those who are participating, we need to have other youth here, and let the youth have an opportunity to be able to share, or to be on display,” she said.