Learning Afterschool: Members at our Club at Pocomoke High School on the Eastern Shore gain the necessary history enrichment during one of the many Black History Month lessons we offered during February.
This year’s celebration of Black History Month at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore was one that educated and introduced our members to the luminaries of the past and to those individuals creating it—right now--in the present. Our Clubs in Pocomoke, Webster Kendrick and The Door were just a few of the places of education that transformed a classroom setting into a space where members were able to take a glimpse into the elder generations of Black giving the youth a greater understanding of who paved the way to the promise of now. This month also opened the collective imaginations of Club members as they interacted with today’s trailblazers and advocates to better understand the modern ways Black History is alive and well every day of the year.
At our Club at Pocomoke High School, members spent their February afternoons discussing the rich tradition of progress by African Americans as a whole and the history makers of those who cemented their legacies on the Eastern Shore as a part of this month-long celebration. Slavery, the institution powered by the descendants whose ancestors survived the inhumanity of The Middle Passage that took them from their homes and families along Africa’s shimmering western coastline and tree-topped inlands, built the very foundation of America on the terrain where only the footprints of the indigenous peoples freely trekked and lived before the advent of colonization. Maryland’s location at the Mason-Dixon Line marked the stark realities between ‘bondage’ and the ‘freedom’ abolitionists of all races proclaimed in northern cities for those enslaved peoples who unwillingly accepted new names and beliefs in a new land.
This unsettling truth of our nation’s history from centuries past was presented to our Club members at Pocomoke High School during a theatrical first-person account from the late-1700s by actress Brenda Parker who portrayed Caroline Branham—an enslaved house maid at President George Washington’s mansion in nearby Mount Vernon, Virginia. Club members participated in an open discussion and shared what they learned and what they also felt hearing how life unfortunately was for a person of color at that time. The conversation then shifted to one of America's most storied figures who defined courageous defiance in the name of liberation--’Moses’ herself—Harriet Tubman.
Club members watched WMAR TV-2's documentary ‘Harriet Tubman: A Maryland Story’ and learned about the woman raised in Dorchester County and how her life’s course and dedication of seeking autonomy for her people led Tubman to becoming the main conductor of The Underground Railroad in the 1800s. They also learned about the impact she had on North Star newspaper columnist, orator and fellow abolitionist—Frederick Douglass. Members were able to see why the Eastern Shore is viewed as one of the nexuses of change that helped to topple the practice of slavery as a whole. Pocomoke Club member and Pocomoke High School freshman Kyshawn added a new voice to Tubman’s century-spanning impact. He openly spoke of how his family is directly linked to Tubman’s great purpose as some of his forefathers and foremothers were among some of the enslaved whom she personally helped to free.
Black History on the Eastern Shore is a story of resilience in life and on the gridiron that started in 1946 in the Somerset County town of Princess Anne. The documentary short--’A Tradition of Athletic Excellence’--was viewed by Club members to gain a better perspective of how change can arrive through competition. Founded in 1886, the University of Maryland on The Eastern Shore (UMES)--then the Delaware Conference Academy before becoming Maryland State College--is one of the long-standing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the nation. Club members discovered the strategic brilliance of Head Coach Vernon ‘Skip’ McCain that made the Hawks into an unstoppable force that produced five undefeated seasons and 27 NFL & AFL Draft Picks including two-time Super Bowl Champion guard with the Oakland Raiders, NFL Hall of Fame inductee and the first Black Head Coach of the game’s modern era—Art Shell. Club members gained the insight as well that most impactful success of UMES players did not happen on the field, but in the streets as they protested against the injustices diminishing the quality of life for African-Americans across Somerset County. Their reflections on the transformative ways taking a stand then helped many of our members to be able to sit in the seats that the law once restricted their ancestors access to businesses, neighborhoods and the schools they sit in now.
Hometown Heroes: Webster Kendrick showcased just a few of the amazing stories and stars that have made Baltimore a cultural flashpoint of change in America.
Walking down the hallway at our Webster Kendrick Club during this Black History Month was a reminder of the many legends Baltimore City has produced who have gone on to influence the world with their artistry and perseverance. Presidental Citizens Medal winner Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, poet Frances Harper, medical miracle Henrietta Lacks, St. Frances Academy’s founder Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, ragtime originator and jazz legend James Hubert ‘Eubie’ Blake, physicist Webster Kendrick and Rhodes Scholar and current Governor of Maryland—Wes Moore—were just some of the figures of influence seen by our Club members. The photographs on the wall served as a reminder of the historical greatness that’s all around them in Baltimore as Career Day arrived.
"Our kids had the privilege of gaining the knowledge of learning about the heroes of Baltimore's cherished past and met the leaders of today,” Webster Kendrick Club Manager Alicia Edwards says about Career Day. “Giving them this wonderful experience helped to create a real since of pride in who they are and sparked interest gaining the careers they want in the future."
It Truly Takes A Village: Webster Kendrick's Black History Month Career Day event gathered professionals from all areas of to impart the wisdom that comes with success to our Club members.
Club members benefitted from the words filling the spacious multi-purpose room of our featured guests. Ovations for Baltimore City Police Department Officers Taylor, Baines and Hamond, Baltimore City Fire Department’s Elliott Jones Sr., CVS Pharmacy’s Mosean Hill, educator Kelly Jones, United States Postal Service’s James Dyson, Griff Grubs Owner Shawntia Griffin, mobile barber Milan Ellis, Truth Alkaline Water Company’s Donte Yerby and At The House’s President/CEO Pastor Troy Randall echoed after they spoke. This level of engagement, one focused on showing our youth what reaching for their highest potential resembles in everyday life, helped to show members some of the people making the largest impact in the world are not on-screen, but are within reach standing right beside them.
Advancing Black History At The Door: NAACP volunteers from Morgan State University made time to help our members know and understand the importance of knowing the importance of learning Black History.
Dialogue is one of the best and most direct ways to learn anything in life. Black History Month at The Door was one of the best examples of that form of engagement happening between Club members and focused volunteers. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Morgan State University chapter brought Black History to our members at The Door. College students keen on educating the youth, these volunteers read books about the influential leaders in Black History to our members who were very excited to answer the questions of their new college-aged friends. The group discussion led to a very fun and engaging rounds of Kahoot where members gave away prizes to the winning teams for their knowledge. Members then had the opportunity to find out more about the NAACP and how the civil rights organization gave a voice to the issue plaguing Black America since being established in 1910.
Walking In Dr. Mary McCloud Bethune's Footsteps: Volunteers from the National Council of Negro Women furthered the organization's mission during its Black History Month educational visit to The Door.
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), an organization that has volunteered numerous times at The Door during the school year, added to the wave of learning happening this Black History Month. Founded by famed educator, humanitarian and activist Dr. Mary McCloud Bethune in 1935, NCNW currently ‘enlightens, inspires and connects more than 2,000,000 women and men’ across many college campuses nationwide. Members of this organization that has been instrumental the discussing matters of health, education and other areas talked about its monumental history to our Club members. Helping to bring this knowledge to our listening youth gave them a new perspective on how to bring about change through the means of dialogue and community service—like all of the activities of this Black History Month—was eye-opening in every way.
Black History Month at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore was an interactive experience where discussions of previous achievements were connected to the landmark advancements being made right now before the eyes of our Club members.
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