PORTSMOUTH—Local youth will soon embark on a Civil Rights tour of the American South to deepen their understanding of vital history.
Back in 2014, Maxine Malone realized that some worrying trends were developing in her community. She knew she couldn’t sit idly by while those changes she noticed gripped local youth.
“A lot of suicide, a lot of youths dealing with drugs and alcohol, depression was one of the strong ones, anxiety and depression. And there was a lack of communication in the home; the broken home where the parents had been in prison or [were currently] in prison, and these kids were living with their grandparents, their great grandparents, aunts, friends, and neighbors,” Malone said. “There just was no cohesiveness around the children. They were falling through the cracks.”
As founder and CEO of Wings of Hope, Malone’s mission is to “nurture positive values, drug-free lives, safe decisions, and health and wellness,” among the community’s at-risk youth, according to Wings of Hope’s website.
Wings of Hope offers early intervention workshops against drug abuse and alcohol, nutrition programs, and various enrichment opportunities that some youth may not otherwise get the chance to experience.
Malone believes that community service events which encourage the children to appreciate and give back to their hometown is critical to their success and positive development. Walking in the footsteps of our country’s Civil Rights leaders and activists felt like the best way to show how their elders fought for change in a battle that, for many, still continues in 2022.
“A lot of these kids don’t know their foundation. They don’t know who they are and how important they are or how important their roots are. We study all culture, and we are from the African American culture. And we have a lot of children who are biracial,” Malone said. “They just don’t get the culture and the history of who we are in school, because it isn’t always taught in school.”
Amya Warnock, a student embarking on the tour, echoes a similar sentiment from her personal perspective.
“Since I’m biracial, there’s a lot I don’t know about black history. I was mostly introduced to my dad’s side of the family, and they’re white. I’ve always wanted to be able to experience and know things that I wasn’t taught. It means a lot to me,” Warnock said.
Malone’s itinerary for the journey, which she curated herself, will allow the children to walk in the footsteps of civil rights leaders and critical figures in Black American history. From Tennessee to Georgia and several stops in between, students will visit and learn from the legacy of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the late US Representative John Lewis. They will walk the same bridge from Selma to Montgomery, AL which civil rights leaders walked to demonstrate for voting rights.
They will also visit the hallowed sites where activism sprang from acts of hate and racism, such as the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963, killing four little girls, in addition to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.
Immersing the community’s youth in their history, to Malone, is vital to ensure that they continue to make good choices for themselves and the community, even when that history may be difficult to relive.
She made the choice to drive rather than fly so that the children could have plenty of time to talk about the sites they see. She and the children in the program expect the bonds they form with other attendees to be a priceless part of the experience.
Kymaree Carter, Youth President of Wings of Hope, elaborated:
“We are building bonds, peer to peer relationships; there’s a lot of people in our youth group that have never seen the outside of Portsmouth. So I feel like Wings of Hope and this trip is an opportunity for you to get and see that there’s more, and other opportunities in other places,” Carter said.
Students will be joined by another youth group with a similar mission from Cincinnati, UMADAOP. Each group coming together to experience history will help strengthen community engagement as well.
Judah Malone, another student attending the tour, believes that there is still much to learn from civil rights leaders of the past and that the trip will help them carry on their legacy.
“I think it’s an opportunity to see where our leaders have stood and to see what they’ve been through, and how we can learn from them in our life choices,” she said.
Wings of Hope is a nonprofit which relies strongly on community support to sustain its mission. And Malone hopes that the community will celebrate their efforts to teach children their cultural roots.
“We must do better. We must do better as a community in educating our youth and pushing forward,” Malone said.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]
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