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The Student News Site of Urbana High School

THE HAWKEYE

The Student News Site of Urbana High School

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Lights go out in the auditorium; And lights go out on Miss Uhuru.

A+picture+of+the+auditoriums+tech+booth+after+hours
A picture of the auditorium’s tech booth after hours

Thursday, February 1st 2024. 8:58 AM. BAM! Power outage! Lights across the school go out, students rejoice! Then disappointment. An hour later they are back on, and we all unfortunately continue with the school day.

A small event easily forgotten by most students across the school was in fact anything but. It would leave the auditorium out of commission for several weeks and would result in the cancellation of the Miss Uhuru Pageant.

Technical Director, Christopher McGuire (11) described his version of events, “I was sitting in the booth by myself working on some audio stuff and I saw the lights go out. [Then] the speakers exploded to a point where it sounded very loud in my ear from 100ft away.” A great start to a Thursday morning.

For the next two weeks the auditorium ran on exclusively emergency lighting, as students scrambled to fix the issue. An issue that may have never been a problem had the auditorium been kept up to date.

What is Miss Uhuru

The Miss Uhuru Pageant is a student event where black senior women across Frederick County compete for the title of Miss. Uhuru at the Urbana auditorium.  The title, Miss Uhuru, a swahili term meaning freedom, does not just signify beauty but it also signifies intelligence and excellence amongst those who earn the title.

Aniyah Cephas (11), President of the Black Student Association (BSA) and organizer for this years Miss Uhuru Pageant

Aniyah Cephas (11), the student coordinator for Miss. Uhuru this year, further described the pageant as, “Not just a pageant for black senior girls to wear pretty dresses… it’s to raise awareness for a disease that has been spread everywhere.” As proceeds from the pageant every year goes to help those suffering from Sickle Cell Disease.

The event was started 3 years ago by former Assistant Principal Mr. Alan. It was held again last year with the help of the Black Student Association (BSA), Mrs. Davis, and Mr. Anderson. Autumn Rabb (12) who performed for but did not compete in the 1st pageant expressed her disappointment this year saying, “I wanted to do it and I was looking forward to doing it for 2 years.”

Unfortunately the power outage came the day of the first scheduled Miss Uhuru rehearsal, and only Aniyah Cephas and Autumn Rabb showed up to an auditorium that was in disarray and disrepair.

A Broken Auditorium

According to James Barrows (12), Technical Director for the pageant, what occurred in the auditorium was not a power outage, but was in fact an electrical surge. First describing the damage done to the speakers he stated that the extra electricity,  “Pushed the silly little device in the speaker that makes the sound and it broke through the speaker.” When Aniyah was later played some samples of music through the speakers she described the sound as, “dog crap”.

What proved more concerning to Aniyah was the lighting. “The first day they said the lights were fine. The next day, they said they didn’t even want to touch the lights because they were afraid the auditorium would literally blow up in flames.” James expanded on this stating, “The only reason the lights didn’t explode is actually because we flipped the breaker on the dimmerrack.”

A dimmerrack is a box where wiring for all the lights in a room are connected. The dimmerrack is responsible for controlling the brightness of the room’s lights. The power surge led to an electrical fuse being destroyed which forcefully shut off the lights preventing damage to them. 

The box where wiring for many of the lights in the auditorium go through, next to Mr Ward’s office

However, the lights shut-off without going through the dimerrack and the device believed the lights were still on. So if someone went to turn back on the lights the machine would go into a constant state of trying to turn the already on lights “more” on. This continues infinitely as more and more power goes to the lights until they would eventually catch fire and explode.

This, obviously, did not happen. After 2 weeks an electrician was able to fix the problem with the dimmerrack. The speakers however remain broken. All the while the original pageant date, February 13th, passed by. A victim of bureaucracy, ultimately Miss Uhuru had to be postponed, then finally canceled as they waited for the school to fix the situation.

Heart of a School

Photo board created by the BSA for black history month

Miss Uhuru is very important for many students at UHS. Aniyah explained that,  “When I found out [Mrs. Uhuru had to be canceled] I was devastated.” Further she explained, “It holds a lot in my heart. At the end of the day we only get a month, and it’s all about coming together to fight and celebrate for us.”

Brooke Dress (11) , who has been doing crew for Miss Uhurur since her freshman year, stated that to her, Miss Uhuru, “is a very creative idea with messages of empowerment while taking the misogyny out of the pageantry.” From an administrative standpoint she stated that, “It encourages students to encourage their peers and it is important for people interested in doing [events] in the future  to figure out how to [organize events].”

Autumn Rabb, while not being able to compete this year, performed a song on-stage for the first pageant. Miss Uhurur has impacted her Urbana life significantly she said, “[Singing] Stand Up was my first performance on stage here at Urbana and it offered a gateway for me into theater.” Currently she is casted to play Medda in UHS Drama’s upcoming musical NEWSIES.

Christopher Mcguire asks, “Where do you think you’d hold events without the auditorium?”

What Needs to Happen Now

A majority of the auditorium’s equipment remains the same from when it was first constructed three decades ago. The auditorium’s equipment does not match the quality of events held in it, and at times it shows. 

If Urbana’s auditorium wants to remain relevant and remain a location FCPS staff and students want to use, things need to change. Otherwise people will turn their attention to other Frederick County schools and their auditoriums as has already begun to happen. Christopher McGuire has to borrow a sound board from another high school consistently instead of dealing with the 3 decade old Urbana one, and Miss Uhuru was proposed as being moved to Linganore High School.

When things actually are fixed, it can take the school months. Christopher McGuire explains that, “I don’t think I’ve seen light work orders or anything in the auditorium get fixed in less than a month” Thankfully the auditorium lights were an exception to this rule and hopefully a new trend in how things will go at Urbana.

The 3rd Annual Miss Uhuru Pageant has been canceled. I don’t know if what happened with Miss Uhuru was avoidable. I do know that staff did little to prevent it and I know that in the past the administration has been slow to action when it comes to improving the auditorium. And I know that things need to change to make the auditorium an aspect of UHS to be proud of again. The staff were on it this time, hopefully they will continue to be. So that what happened with Miss Uhuru won’t happen again.

You can still donate to the cause at: https://www.fscdr.org/donate-now/#:~:text=You%20can%20also%20donate%20by,extent%20allowed%20by%20the%20law.&text=This%20is%20a%20secure%20SSL%20encrypted%20payment.

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About the Contributor
Jason Holman, Reporter
Jason Holman is a Junior at Urbana High School. In school, you can catch him in the drama department where he devotes much of his time and effort as one of the assistant stage managers. In his free time--he reads, writes, draws, and even acts which is what draws him out from the crowd.     The three things he cannot live without consist of his phone, a book, and something to draw with. When asked what his death row meal would be, he would be satisfied with an Alaskan Crab with old bay, salmon, a baguette, water, rice, and fries.    Who inspires Jason to be who he is today? His mom. “She does a lot and pushes through to help a lot of people. She's a teacher,” her selflessness radiates onto her son too, who gives off such a positive energy in school.   His favorite music artist is Will Wood, an indie folk American singer-songwriter, filmmaker, composer, and comedian. The song he would recommend to anyone would be, “I, Me, Myself.”   Jason sees himself 10 years from now owning his apartment, working as a political science journalist, and accomplishing his goal of learning a new language. 

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