African-American Trailblazers Visit Schools to Energize, Inspire Students

BY Imani M. Cheers  September 23, 2011 at 5:25 PM EDT

The HistoryMakers organization has sent 450 African-American trailblazers and leaders into high schools around the country this week to encourage students to get their diplomas and aim for college.

One such event took place on Friday at Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, D.C.



Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Ambassador Andrew Young, poet Nikki Giovanni, signer Musiq Soulchild and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett all participated in the project, which is part of a larger African- American video oral history archive.

Since its incarnation in 1999, The HistoryMakers has gathered 2,000 personal stories. At 113 years of age, Louisiana Hines of Detroit is the oldest person interviewed by the project, while the youngest is 33-year-old ballerina Ayisha McMillan, from North Carolina.

“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 year, with a theme of “commit,” the program visited 250 schools in 115 cities in 35 states.

“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,” Richardson added.

Dennisha Frazier, a 17-year-old senior at Dunbar, remarked after the presentation: “They let me know that I can do anything I want. Just believe in yourself, set your goals, try to accomplish them and you can do anything you want in life.”

Frazier aspires to be a journalist and hopes to attend college in Virginia, New York or California.