CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A local program for kids focusing on prominent African Americans from West Virginia can pick up where schools and teachers leave off.
Hollis Lewis, program coordinator at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Charleston, is hosting the event as part of February's Black History Month.
"[It's] to let kids in the community know, wherever you're from or whatever point of life you're at now, you can achieve anything," Lewis said.
Those profiled will range from activists like Rev. Leon Sullivan -- a Charleston native who played a large role in ending apartheid in South Africa -- to athletes like Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA. Lloyd once played at what is now known as West Virginia State University, Lewis said.
Learning about a person who looks like him or her better engages students and make history more relatable, Lewis said.
"You have a lot of kids who are from socio-economic low places, so you want to expose them that people look just like them and come from similar circumstances who have done great things to impact the world," Lewis said.
Anthony Kinzer, director of the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture, said there is a great need to highlight the achievements of African Americans in West Virginia and beyond.
"You can't look at America and not see black folk," Kinzer said. "There are times when the contributions of black people are overlooked, and this is a chance to single out those particular contributions and those leaders."
Both Kinzer and Lewis said communities are essential in passing along the history that might get glossed over in normal circumstances.
"I always had great history teachers, but my parents and people in the community took it upon themselves to teach me, to supplement what I wasn't being taught in school," said Lewis of his own experiences.
Not passing on history can be a detriment to future generations, Kinzer said.
"There are times when generations don't hand information down to the next generation, and that information is forgotten or not realized," Kinzer said.
Kinzer said learning from one another is a key part of sharing history.
"Celebrating Black History Month is important, but celebrating the fact that we can and we should interact with others and pass that social network and social interaction to younger generations," Kinzer said. "We grow from learning from other people. But you never learn by remaining stagnant."
Lewis' program will be held Thursday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m. The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center is located at 314 Donnally St. in downtown Charleston. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Call 304-348-6404 for more information.Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.