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Desire Gonzales, 10, glasses, and Barisa Barragan, 10, left of Gonzales, enjoys the closing dance during the first annual African American Heritage assembly held at Schafer Elementary School in Hayward, Calif., on Friday, March 7, 2014. Students used dance, song and acting to bring to life 16 African American heroes. The event is the brainchild of teacher Ginger Brown after her special-education students created the quilt called "Black History: they Left their Stamp on the World." (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

HAYWARD -- Schafer Park students danced, sang and dressed in costumes this week to tell the stories of 16 African-American heroes, bringing to life the black history they had studied.

Teacher Ginger Brown was inspired to put together the performances after her special-education students created a quilt called "Black History: They Left Their Stamp on the World."

"It came out so beautifully, we wanted to show it to the school," she said.

The quilt has 16 panels, each designed to look like a postage stamp with an image of a prominent African-American. The students drew the portraits, which were transferred to special fabric and stitched into a quilt by Brown's mother, Martha Brown.

Students learned about a different hero each day, said fellow special education teacher Susana Maumalanga.

"We're celebrating heroes of the past and heroes of the present," she said.

Brown wrote short biographies of the 16 people highlighted and recruited students from throughout the school to dress in costume to portray them. During the performances, the students acted out their roles as recordings they made earlier were played and the biographies were shown on a screen.

"We also got the school chorus involved, popping up as a gospel choir during four of the presentations," Brown said. The chorus sang songs about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Harriet Tubman, who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first African-American in the Major League.

The students performed the show Thursday night and twice on Friday. A dance wrapped up each show, which included both general and special education students.

"We include everyone; we have students who are African-American, Latino, Asian, all races," Brown said. "Black history is for everyone; our Jackie Robinson is Filipino."

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.