Much needed ‘back to school with the HistoryMakers’

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Andrew Ingraham, Cecil Hayes, Henrietta Smith and Niara Sudarkasa
Andrew Ingraham, Cecil Hayes, Henrietta Smith and Niara Sudarkasa

Much needed ‘back to school with the HistoryMakers’

Program brings African American leaders to Fort Lauderdale area schools

From Amrita Balachandran, The HistoryMakers

     CHICAGO, ILL –– Accomplished scholar, educator, Africanist and anthropologist Niara Sudarkasa was a woman of many “firsts.”

She was the first Black woman to teach at Columbia University and New York University. Sudarkasa was also the first African American woman to teach anthropology at the University of Michigan, the first woman to become president of Lincoln University, and the first African American to be in-stalled as a Chief in the historic Ife Kingdom of the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Students will get to hear stories such as these from university president and scholar Niara Sudarkasa, interior designer Cecil Hayes, children’s librarian and storyteller Henrietta Smith and entrepreneur Andrew Ingraham on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, as they join hundreds of African American HistoryMakers across the nation for the 4th Annual Back to School With The History-Makers program to COMMIT to excellence and finishing their education.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is chairing the nation-wide effort with the goal of having more than 500 Black leaders go “back to school” in 68 cities and 30 states. The program puts HistoryMakers in direct contact with over 25,000 students across the nation, to inspire them with their life’s stories and to encourage youth to strive for excellence.

The theme of the day is “COMMIT,” and the History-Makers will personally recount their own school experiences and the struggles that they encountered on their paths to success and, most importantly, to encourage students to COMMIT to their education.

“I feel so enlightened, like I can do anything,” says a student from the program. The HistoryMakers Founder and Executive Director, Julieanna Richardson, states, “By bringing these living leaders into to-day’s educational system, we are raising awareness about the achievements of the accomplished African Americans in local communities and bringing these leaders into schools to see things firsthand, while providing important role models for today’s youth. ”

Richardson is encouraging educators everywhere to use The HistoryMakers’ digital archive to enrich their students’ exposure to the contributions of African Americans across the globe. This year, schools participating in the event will receive a free one-year membership for the digital archive, which includes extensive and easy-to-access interviews with 310 HistoryMakers.

Among the HistoryMakers participating that day in Fort Lauderdale schools:

Niara Sudarkasa became the first woman to serve as president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous publications, holds 13 honorary degrees and is the recipient of nearly 100 civic and professional awards. In 2001, Sudarkasa became the first African American to be installed as a Chief in the historic Ife Kingdom of the Yoruba of Nigeria. Sudarkasa will go back to Blanche Ely High School.

Cecil Hayes is an interior designer, and founder of Cecil’s Designs Unlimited. Hayes’ appreciation for African art influences much of her work. Her clientele includes Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Derek Brown. and Penny Hard-a-way. Her works have been featured in Ebony, Florida Design and the Miami Herald. Hayes garnered the African American Achievement Award in 2002; the Distinguished Designer of the Year Award from the Designers and Decorators Guild. In 1996, she was chosen as one of the Top Female Interior Designers in South Florida. Hayes is recognized by Who’s Who in Interior Design. Hayes will go back to Dillard High School.

Andrew Ingraham is the president and co-founder of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers.  This organization was created to increase the number of African Americans developing, operating and owning hotels in America. In-graham is also the president of Horizons Marketing Group International. Ingraham has served on the White House Conference on Tourism and the National Tourism Advisory Committee for the NAACP. His knowledge and expertise has made him a reliable source for several publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and National Public Radio. Ingraham will go back to Blanche Ely High School.

Henrietta Smith earned her B.A. degree from Hunter College in 1943 and her B.S.L.S. degree from Columbia University in 1946.  She became a children’s librarian and storyteller.  In 1955, she moved to Florida and worked in the media department of the Broward County School System.  During the summers, she returned to New York where she worked as a storyteller, and in 1959, received her M.S.L.S. degree from Columbia University. Smith completed her education in 1975 with her Ph.D. from the University of Miami.  She then joined the faculty of Florida Atlantic University and, in 1985, became the first African American faculty member at the University of South Florida’s School of Library and Information Science. She retired in 1993 and since then has been active in a number of organizations, most notably the American Library Association and the Coretta Scott King Task Force. Smith will go back to Dillard High School.

Last year’s successful Back to School With The History-Makers program sent nearly 500 of our HistoryMakers into schools in 77 cities and 35 states, including 102 year old “Bloody Sunday” civil rights pioneer, Amelia Boynton Robinson, neo soul artists Kindred the Family Soul (Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon), singer and actress Freda Charcelia Payne, and actor Harry J. Lennix. Many of the HistoryMakers have now adopted a school, one of the goals of the initiative.

The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. To date, the organization has interviewed over 2,000 His-toryMakers, with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews (30,000 hours) for the establishment of a one-of-a-kind digital archive.

For more information, visit The HistoryMakers website, and

The HistoryMakers Education page at



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About Carma Henry 13530 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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