Register for our kickoff of the first phase of the SpringMo Black Wellness Initiative

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Springfield’s Black History Summer Academy Empowers Youth and Celebrates Community

By Samuel Knox,
UniteNews Staff Writer

For over two decades, Springfield’s Black History Summer Academy has been a beacon of education and empowerment, offering a week-long deep dive into African American studies. Held on the grounds of Drury University’s Lay Hall, located at 900 N Benton Ave, this annual event relies on the dedication of volunteers from Springfield Public Schools and members of the local community to bring its vision to life.

Gwen Marshall, the director of the Black History Summer Academy, emphasizes the importance of intertwining local, national, and international history throughout the program. “We aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of African American history by exploring topics such as the rich history of Silver Springs Park, the significance of Juneteenth, and the vibrant culture of Park Day,” Marshall explained.

As part of the academy’s curriculum, participants explore this historic site and engage with its legacy firsthand.

A highlight of the academy is the unveiling of a specially designed coloring book, showcasing local Black personalities who have made remarkable contributions to society. From educators to athletes, entrepreneurs to musicians, these figures inspire and uplift the next generation of leaders.

With a focus on empowering youth and nurturing leadership qualities, the academy offers interactive classes tailored for both K-12 students and adults. These sessions delve into the profound impact of Black history within Springfield and beyond, fostering critical thinking and cultural awareness.

“As parents of diverse kids, you should stress to your children to be their best. Don’t let excuses or the color of your skin limit you. The history of this country is not great but we are all Americans,” he said. “We have to act like we belong.” said City Councilman, Abe McGull, one of the past speakers at the academy.

Every evening, the academy provides nightly meals, inviting families to come together and share in the journey of knowledge and growth. All are welcome to participate, as the academy endeavors to equip individuals with the tools needed to propel the entire community toward a brighter future.

The last evening of the event is capped off by the Ariya. The Ariya is a Rites of Passage Program where young ladies graduating from high school participate in the rites of passage; an Afro-centric presentation to society.

It is sponsored by the Bridge Builder, Drury University, Springfield Public Schools, Unite of Southwest Missouri and many others. Its purpose is to provide character development and leadership training for young African-American Women and to encourage them to pursue college after high school graduation as well as to empower them to take ownership of their futures.

The participants in the Rites of Passage Ceremony are granted permission by their families and the community to transition to the next level of social and educational development. The Ariya, a Swahili word meaning celebration, is the Black History Summer Academy’s culminating activity and public celebration where the participants and their escorts are presented to the community. All the young ladies must be high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.5 (4.0 scale).

Springfield’s Black History Summer Academy stands as a testament to the power of education, unity, and collective action. By honoring the past, empowering the present, and inspiring the future, this cherished institution continues to be a catalyst for positive change within the Springfield community.

The deadline to register is June 1st. For more information on how to register, please scan the QR Code or go to sps.org/BHSA

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