“Hey, black child, be what you can be. Learn what you can learn. Do what you can do. And tomorrow, your nation will be what you want it to be.”
The inspiring words recited by students from F.D. Reese Christian Academy rang out through the Kelley Student Center Commons at Indiana University Kokomo Thursday during the first event kicking off Black History Month on campus.
Around 20 children from the academy dance, ranging from 4 to 7 years old, sang and recited parts of Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of IUK students, faculty and community members who gathered to celebrate their legacy.
“If you’re going to kick off a Black History Month celebration, why not do it with our future?” asked Catherine Barnes, an academic advisor at IUK. “I think it’s important we celebrate this because all God’s children and all the people of the U.S. contribute to how great we are as a nation.”
That’s a lesson the students at F.D. Reese Christian Academy learn every day, said Principal Patricia Anderson.
“When we talk about Christopher Columbus and Abraham Lincoln ... we put them side-by-side with Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth so the kids know they all lived at the same time,” she said. “It’s all part of the same history.”
Tashona Jones, coordinator of campus diversity at IUK, said that’s one of the goals of all the Black History Month events on campus in February.
“It’s not just about black history. It’s about American history,” she said. “Whether you’re African American or not, everybody has a reason to celebrate black history because it’s everybody’s history.”
“We’re bringing events to this campus to tell the community and the region around us that everyone takes part in making us a great nation.”
The students at F.D. Reese Christian Academy knew the truth of Barnes’ statement, and told it to the crowd.
“I’ll be whatever I want to be and anything I care to be,” they shouted. “And when I open my eyes, what I care to see is me.”
Concluding the celebration, IUK Chancellor Michael Harris praised the students and said it was one of the most inspiring events to take place on campus.
“I think we kicked off Black History Month better than anywhere in the world,” he said.
• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at carson.gerber@ kokomotribune.com.