BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPECIAL COVERAGE:
Program documents African Americans who have made a significant impact to local history
(Editor's note: for more Black History Month coverage, click here.)
Have you ever wondered why certain streets or buildings carry certain names or why Helen Arnold had a community learning center named after her? Have you ever thought about how events like the Harold K. Stubbs Humanitarian Awards dinner or the annual “Gospel Meets Symphony” concert got their start?
Because He Cares Ministry is providing answers to questions like these through its Living Legacy project. The project worked with high school student Stephen Gough Jr. to research local individuals and University of Akron student Ryan Keeper to digitally document the lives of African Americans who have made significant contributions to local history. “These recordings enable people to tell their own stories in their own words," said Darryl Brake, project director. “We are completing final production on the first round of interviews, which took longer than expected. The second round of interviews will begin shortly.”
“Thanks to input from the community, we have quite a list of individuals we want to eventually record. We will go as far as the funding will take us. Several three-minute segments from these interviews can be viewed here, and we hope to air full-length versions on local public television.” The final versions of the interviews will be preserved at the Akron Summit County Public Library for generations to come.
The ministry’s springboard for sharing Black history was its “Experience In Pride” drama program written in honor of Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and National Black History month. Fred Johnson, who is now a history professor at Hope College, and Yvonne Brake wrote the script. After curriculum specialists reviewed and approved it, Because He Cares produced and presented the drama in Akron schools with funding from local foundations.
There was a tremendous outpouring of interest not only from Akron schools but also from schools in Youngstown, Cleveland, Canton and Alliance as well as from churches, universities and community groups. Bookings for the drama were so popular that presentations were scheduled a year in advance. “This made me nervous,” said Yvonne Brake, “but ‘Experience In Pride’ was one of our most requested programs and has been presented before thousands of people in a four-state region. We also had a version geared to younger audiences where an African Grio shares history with the children.” An updated version of the script along with supporting materials is now available as an E-book on the Barnes and Nobles website.
Although "Experience In Pride" differs significantly from the “Living Legacy” project, the common thread is the preservation of history through storytelling. Funding for the Living Legacy project include Akron Community Foundation’s Vernon L. Odom Fund and Knight Foundation Fund; the Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation. For more information, call (330) 762-8884 or go to www.bhcministry.org.
You can find the videos posted to the Akronist in upcoming weeks.