February 18, 2017

Zach Berg , zberg@press-citizen.com 9:43 p.m. CT Feb. 18, 2017

Iowa City students dressed like Maya Angelou, talked like Muhammad Ali and did backflips like Gabby Douglas on Saturday night as a part of the Dream Center's second Black History Living Museum.

The event, held inside the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, featured 13- to 16-year-old Iowa City students portraying their personal heroes from the annals of black history to celebrate Black History Month.

Kishonna Chew, 16, stood in front of her poster dedicated to Angelou wearing a bright, colorful hat like Angelou did so many times during her life as one of the nation's most revered poets. When visitors walked up to Chew and rang a bell on the table next to her, she would come alive as Angelou.

"I want them to know that (Angelou) was not just a poet. She was a civil rights activist, and her poems always had a voice," Chew said. "She always wanted to show something through her poetry, and I'm trying to get people to know her message of equality."

Frederick Newell, executive director of the Dream Center, said the event was brought to life last year by Nikesha Jenkins, a program coordinator at the center. He said the students were all volunteers.

Organizers hope to make the event an annual one in Iowa City.

“The Dream Center was made to strengthen families, change lives and restore hope. I believe this type of event goes toward our mission," Newell said. "This is showing families where we’re coming from, especially our youth who may not know their past. It gives our youth a chance to show their talent, their art, their history.”

The event also featured local students performing spoken-word poetry, presenting works of art and singing about the past, present and future of black Americans.

It was Chew's second time participating and her second time portraying a poet at the event. Last year she was Langston Hughes.

"The way they both showed race and sex on such a large scale with their words, it's important people remember  what they did," Chew said. "I hope kids and adults can learn from what we're doing here tonight."

Reach Zach Berg at 319-887-5412, zberg@press-citizen.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyBerg. 

Publication Source: 
The Press Citizen