This Friday, September 23, five hundred African-Americans will enter classrooms across the nation to recount their own school experiences and the struggles they encountered as youth.
The visits are part of the 2nd annual Back to School with the HistoryMakers program. Designed to put students in direct and sustained contact with high-profile mentorship and encourage youth to commit to excellence, popular Black names, from rapper-actor Common and poet Nikki Giovanni, to Former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young and author and filmmaker Antwone Fisher, will participate.
Last year, 200 HistoryMakers spoke at 107 schools in 25 states and 50 cities. Some speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.
The HistoryMakers is the nation’s largest African-American video oral-history archive. Over 2,000 videotaped personal histories have been recorded of well-known and “unsung” African-Americans.
“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.”
HistoryMakers Founder Julieanna Richardson’s opinions have not come without controversy, however. She has openly expressed that integration has destroyed Black education and that, since the modern civil rights movement, Black professionals have abandoned black youth.
Though the program is commendable, many of the participants, all Black professionals, have previously gone above and beyond to help minorities. In 2007 rapper Common, for example, started the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to leadership and empowerment programs for youth in underserved communities. Additionally, in 2006, actor, author and HistoryMaker participant Hill Harper, for example, started the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, a non-profit youth organization established to provide a foundation for minority young men and women to use as a launching pad to success.
Perhaps through the stories of those participating in the program, Richardson and others will identify that Black professionals have not abandoned Black youth, but instead, are using their success to give back to their communities on a larger scale.
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