Arts & Culture / Community Notebook

Black History Month Begins In January For Maywood Youth; Local Mentoring Nonprofit Wins Statewide Recognition

Mentoring pics

Youth with Maywood Youth Mentoring (MYM) show a pull-out of key events and people in African history during a recent post-Kwanzaa, pre-Black History Month breakfast hosted by MYM. Author Mary Morris, below, presents ideas and concepts from her body of educational work at the breakfast. || Nicholas Samuel

Mary MorrisTuesday, January 12, 2016 || By Nicholas Samuel 

“Our history is like the relationship between a mother and a child. We love our mothers. Africa is our mother and the birthplace of all humanity,” said Mary Morris, educator, author and Maywood youth mentor, at a youth breakfast held Jan. 9 at the Maywood Multipurpose Building, 200 S. 5th Ave.

The breakfasts are held each month and hosted by the Maywood-based nonprofit Maywood Youth Mentoring (MYM). This month’s breakfast took the theme of a post-Kwanzaa, pre-Black History Month event.

Morris, who wrote the book “Young Lions: Challenged to Live Free” in 2011, recently published a 2016 ancient African calendar. At the Saturday breakfast she presented the ideas and concepts in her body of work to about 50 area residents.

“How many of you have heard that we were once kings and queens in Africa? You come from the greatest culture in the history of the world,” Morris said to the gathering, many of whom were young people who are part of MYM. 

“It’s important for youth to know who they are, who their ancestors are, to respect their ancestors and respect themselves,” Morris said.

She listed numerous key dates and events in African history that she believes are often overlooked in most classrooms, such as the presence in Africa of grand libraries and innovations in math, science, medicine and literature.

“Our children deserve to know they are the descendants of great artists, engineers and grand master builders,” Morris said.

Morris’s Egyptian calendar illuminates the art and notable achievements of Africans, including statues of kings, queens, scribes, architects and philosophers. The Africans also built temples that are more than 6,000 thousand years old, she pointed out.

“Some of those temples are still there. It’s amazing how all of this has stood the test of time,” said Morris, who has visited the continent several times. “Nobody can take this art away from us. This is our culture.”

The statue of Horemakhet, better known as the Great Sphinx, starts off the calendar for the month of January.

Horemakhet, which has the body of a lion and the face of an African man, is the oldest sculpture in the world, according to Morris. It’s estimated to be 12,000 years old, she said.

“They don’t speak on ancient African history in school and never will. That’s deep, real deep,” said 21-year-old attendee and MYM member Darrion Orr.

Barbara Cole, MYM’s founder and CEO, said African Americans don’t hear enough about their own history in school and only learn about black history during Black History Month.

“There’s a state standard for [teachers] to learn it and put it in their lesson plan. They’re using our tax dollars to teach our children,” Cole said. “The first person on the planet came from Africa. African American history is American history, so everybody should know it.”

Gina Harris, an MYM mentor and District 89 teacher, said it’s important that mentors continue to have conversations with black youth about ancient Africa.

“If they don’t recognize they have a rich history and great civilizations were created where they came from, students can make unfortunate choices,” Harris said. “We need students to see who they really are.”

For more information on purchasing “Young Lions: Challenged to Live Free,” $10, or the 2016 Ancient African calendar, $10, contact Mary Morris at msmary.culture@gmail.com or contact her through her here.

Maywood Youth Mentoring Wins 2016 IMPACT Award for Group Mentoring Program

Maywood Youth Mentoring was recently announced the winner of the 2016 IMPACT Award for a group youth mentoring program. The award is given out by the Illinois Mentoring Partnership (IMP), a nonprofit “dedicated to  expanding the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for children and youth in Illinois,” according to its website.

The Maywood nonprofit will be presented the award at a Jan. 22 breakfast. January is National Mentoring Month and statewide recognition breakfast is the first of its kind “to hoonor companies, organizations, and key individuals who are making a difference through mentoring,” according to IMP. VFP

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