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Living Museum Part Of Iowa City Black History Month Events

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

In celebration of Black History Month and to showcase the work of its youth performers, the Dream Center will present a living museum Saturday evening.

Frederick Newell, executive director of the Dream Center, said attendees will see prominent historical figures in black history brought to life by students in the center's Performance Arts Academy at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center. This is the first event of its kind for the center, Newell said, and the hope is to make it an annual program.

"Our biggest thing that we wanted to come from this was an an opportunity to share some of the work our youth have been doing this past couple of months as far as learning about different historical figures of the past, as well as to be able to get the community to come together and support our youth," Newell said. "This is a way we can try to pull the community together to celebrate something positive."

Nikesha Jenkins, a program coordinator for the center who has been working with the performers, said she had the idea for the living museum last year, but wanted to make sure there was enough time to organize a memorable performance. She said the performers have been researching their characters and practicing since December.

"I wanted to do this because of some things that were going on in the schools at that time," Jenkins said. "Some kids were telling me that they weren't learning anything about black history. They felt like every year they would only hear about Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but there's a whole lot of other people out there that they don't know about."

Jenkins said somewhere between 25 and 30 youth performers of varying ages will participate in the living museum, either acting out scenes of historical figures' lives, personifying entertainers or presenting biographies on the figures' roles in shaping history.

"I didn't turn any kid away. Anybody that wanted to participate can, and I even have parents volunteering to be people in the event as well," Jenkins said. "This is knowledge for everybody. There might be some people that they haven't heard of, and some small things about black history that they might not know, so everybody can look forward to a good time."

After the living museum, Jenkins said her dance team, the Dream Divas, will perform a grand finale dance to inspirational songs.

"One thing we're trying to share with our own youth is that historical figures of the past have paved the way, and sometimes youth don't realize it because no one is teaching them about the difficult past that we come from," Newell said.

Other Black History Month celebrations this weekend include a soul food dinner at City High on Friday and a Unity Concert at New Creations International Church Saturday afternoon.

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