Youth Black History Program has raised $90,000 for scholarships in its 19 years.
Each February for the past eight years or so, Samira Taite-Headspeth has participated in one way or another in the Youth Black History Program, at the African American Cultural Society. She danced, she acted, she recited. On Feb. 20 of this year, as a senior in high school, she was given the role of master of ceremonies for the first time, and it gave her a new appreciation not only for the program, but for Black history itself.
“Being the emcee, I had to focus,” she said. “When you’re in it (as a dancer or speaker), you’re trying to memorize, and you’re performing for the audience. But (as emcee), it was amazing to see the kids put personality into it. They really cared about what they were reading.”
“There is a feeling that these kinds of discussions are uncomfortable. They shouldn’t be.”
The program, founded by Jeanette Wheeler, helped raise about $5,000 for youth scholarships, for a total of over $90,000 in the program’s 19-year history.
This year’s program was dedicated to Erma Brooks, who died earlier this year. Brooks helped create the Ebony Society at both of the local high schools. She raised funds for cultural outings and invited speakers to visit and inspire the young women in the clubs.
“She was a part of this community early on,” said Melba McCarty, who helped write the script for this year’s program. “She was a very energetic women.”
McCarty also praised Wheeler for her “forward thinking” in starting the annual tradition of the Youth Black History Program.
“We seek to inspire, to inform, to be very methodical about studying history,” McCarty said. The theme of this year’s program was “Black Excellence: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”
“Our goal was to show that there is a direct line of excellence and greatness that runs from antiquity — our ancient African ancestry — through every era of American society. … Our accomplishments were achieved through great struggles, many sacrifices, but happened nonetheless.”
Ed Pinto, chairman of the AACS Board of Directors said the program gives the participants a chance to showcase their talents. Just as importantly, it also raises awareness for what the AACS offers.
"It shows the community that we are interested in the wellbeing of the youth of the community, and we’re willing to invest in those children," he said, adding that the AACS advocates for Black history in schools and connects students with internships and volunteer opportunities.
Like Taite-Headspeth, McCarty felt that the audience and the participants were positively impacted by the Youth Black History Program.
“I left there on cloud 900,” McCarty said, “and I’ll tell you why. It was a multicultural audience. ... There is this perception that if you talk about this group, that group will feel uncomfortable. I think it’s an issue of communication. If we leave (our history) unattended, unrealistically addressed, who loses out? Everyone.”
Visit https://aacspalmcoast.org/donate/ to support the program.
Participants in the show
- Samira Taite-Headspeth as master of ceremonies
- Matanzas Rhythm and Blues dancers under the direction of Khadijah Jones
- Antwone Moore as Gen. Benjamin O. Davis III
- AmMarius Anderson as Gen. Colin Powell
- Najee Monroe as civil rights attorney Oliver Hill
- Maxwell Lee as attorney Virgil Hawkins
- Jill Prime as attorney Constance Baker Motley
- Ashley Harrison as free-speech advocate Darnella Frazier
- Edwina Brown as scientist Kizzmekia Corbett
- Aminah Taite-Headspeth as poet Amanda Gorman
- Faith Robinson as educator Mary McLeod Bethune
- Sheldon Headley and Sterling Taite-Headspeth read the poem “I Am a Black Child”
- Myles Lee and Maxwell Lee as newscasters
- Demetrius Headley, Edwina Brown, Richard Barnes and Kimberly Lee as interviewees