CHICAGO (Special to the NNPA) – Five hundred African American trailblazers will descend upon classrooms in 107 cities and 34 states (including Puerto Rico) on Friday, Sept. 23 as part of the 2nd Annual Back to School with the HistoryMakers program.
The one-day program, which comes as students are getting settled in classrooms throughout the country, is designed to bring renewed attention to the needs of the nation's educational system and its students. This year's participants include: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Valerie B. Jarrett, former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, entertainer and author Common, activist and talk show host the Rev. Al Sharpton, political commentator and talk show host Roland Martin, singer/actress Melba Moore, Broadway choreographer George Faison, poet Nikki Giovanni, actress Marla Gibbs, actress T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh, poet/author Sonia Sanchez and author/filmmaker Antwone Fisher.
Notable African Americans will recount their own school experiences and the struggles they encountered on their paths to success. The theme of the day is "COMMIT," and the goal of the program is to put Black leaders in direct and sustained contact with young people in schools all across the nation, while encouraging youth to commit to excellence, to learning their history and to achieving beyond what they think is possible.
The HistoryMakers, the nation's largest African-American video oral history archive, consists of 2,000 videotaped personal histories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Subjects include President Barack Obama, General Colin Powell, Marion Wright Edelman and the oldest living black cowboy, Alonzo Pettie, co-founder of Colorado's first Black rodeo.
The oldest person interviewed is Louisiana Hines out of Detroit, who is 113, and the youngest is Ayisha McMillan, a prima ballerina from North Carolina, aged 33. At last year's launch, 200 HistoryMakers spoke at 107 schools in 25 states and 50 cities. Participants included: former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, civil rights activist C. T. Vivian and broadcast journalist Carole Simpson. In Washington, D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined civil rights activists the Rev. Al Sharpton and Roger Wilkins at the Dorothy I. Height Community Charter School. In New York, CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with former Mayor of New York David Dinkins at the Harlem Children's Zone. Through the group's efforts more than 25,000 students were reached and many HistoryMakers adopted the schools they addressed.
"Our HistoryMakers embody our commitment to education and are a wonderful example of true service—service that can literally change the course of the lives of thousands of young people," said The HistoryMakers Founder and Executive Director Julieanna Richardson. "This is just the beginning as we are making our digital collection of more than 8,000 hours of video testimony available, free of charge, to all participating schools."
Organizations that have joined forces with The HistoryMakers for the second annual Back-to-School event include The Faison Firehouse Respect Project, DC-CAP, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, the National Education Association, the Arnold Family Foundation, the Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link, Inc., the Fernbank Science Center, the Alabama Departments of Education and Archives and History and the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. Additionally, Comcast, the Chicago Tribune and TheRoot.com have signed on as media partners, with Comcast contributing between $250,000 and $500,000 in public service announcement (PSA) support. Co-chairs of the event include Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard.
For more information, visit www.thehistorymakers.com or The HistoryMakers digital archive at www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/.