14 October 2011
CHICAGO – More than 500 African-American living legends nationwide participated in the 2nd Annual Back to School With the HistoryMakers program on Friday, Sept. 23.
Hip-hop artist, actor and author Common, poet Nikki Giovanni, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett,Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, singer/actress Melba Moore, Broadway choreographer George Faison, actresses Marla Gibbs and T’KeyahCrystal Keymah (Living Color, The Cosby Show) and poet/author Sonia Sanchez, were among the well-known personalities who recounted their own school experiences to students in 37 states. More important, each of the speakers encouraged students to commit to academic excellence and completing their educations.
“The timing of this program could not have come at a better time as the U.S. education system is in chaos, and government official and educators are struggling to find solutions that will encourage students to commit to education,” said Julieanna Richardson, founder and executive director of Chicago-based “The HistoryMakers. “Our goal with this program is to get young people to commit to education and excellence.”
“The program is the beginning of a profound movement,” Richardson said, focused on providing students with living role models. “We are so pleased the schools open their doors for this opportunity. Many school officials said they want to have The HistoryMakers back at different points of the year.”
At a time when schools across the country are facing budget and staff cuts and an increased emphasis on student achievement, The HistoryMakers have responded to President Obama’s call for public service in a real and meaningful way by helping students see the alternatives to violence and dropping out of school.
School visits by living legends are designed to raise awareness about the achievements of accomplished African Americans. The HistoryMakers have also made digital archives of The HistoryMakers available to the schools to enrich their students’ exposure to the contributions of African Americans in every aspect of American life.
Jarrett, who traveled to Dunbar High School not far from the White House, told students about the obstacles her father, a noted physician, had to overcome while battling society’s entrenched racism.
Back to School with The HistoryMakers participants praised The HistoryMakers’ commitment to educational excellence, adding they were impressed with the students they met and would eagerly return next year. “The HistoryMakers’ staff was very professional, and I was very honored and surprised to see the research that was done,” stated Melba Moore, who returned to Newark Arts High School for the first time today since she graduated decades ago.
The HistoryMakers is a 501 (3) © non-profit dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. To date, the organization has interviewed over 2,000 HistoryMakers, with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews (30,000 hours) for the establishment of a one-of-a-kind digital archive, and priceless educational resource. For more information, visit The HistoryMakers website atwww.thehistorymakers.com and The HistoryMakers digital archive at http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/. For a brief introduction to The HistoryMakers, view a YouTube clip here.