KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks: Those are very prominent people in African American history.
But they aren’t the only ones.
Some kids at the New Bethel Church in KCK introduced FOX4 to a whole slew of other names, which should all be household names.
The line to the Living Black History Museum stretched well past the door, into the courtyard, and almost to the parking lot.
And behind door number 2, you could hear a first grader named Ric singing “Hello Dolly! This is Louis, Dolly! It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”
And then, he stopped singing.
“Hello,” he told a small crowd, “my name is Louis Armstrong.”
Ric then launched into his memorized presentation.
“In 1939, I was the first African American Jazz Musician to write an autobiography.”
And, toy trumpet in hand, he channeled the jazz great. Which is exactly the point.”I was a trumpeeter,” he said with a large smile, “songwriter, singer, and I love to skat!”
Groups of adults paraded into a handful of rooms, each time hearing about another African American who made history.
A few doors down, other voices rang out.
“Hello, I’m Madam C.J. Walker,” said one girl. “I was the first black woman millionaire and I made hair products for black women with curly hair.”
Amaris Willis is the one who introduced the idea of the Living Black History Museum to the church. Her daughter toddled around, not old enough to talk and partake – yet.
“A lot of these children don`t get the opportunity to really go deep into black history in their own schools,” Willis said. “And a lot of them, even if they do, it might be a bulletin board or they might just be covering different people from civil rights and even slavery.”
She continued, “we’re missing it in our school environment, and for that reason we were like OK let`s do at our church.”
For the last month, New Bethel Chuch spent the time in its children’s ministry devoted to learning about black history, and some of the major players.
Willis, however, was surprised that most of the characters the children chose to portray were not the ones the ministry discussed.”Hi, I am Ella Fitzgerald,” Skylar Burns said.
She read from her card, and then ended by singing one of Fitzgerald’s more well-known songs: “A tisket a tasket, a green and yellow basket.”
“I chose Ella Fitzgerald,” said fourth grade Burns, “because I was really inspired by her because since she lost both of her legs because of her diabetes, she still did what she loved, even without legs.”
That, said Willis, is part of the lesson.
“They were able to see the different obstacles and the different tests and trials that a lot of these individuals had to go through to get that successful story that they had. We wanted them to see, and to know that they can do it, because others have done it before.”