While the month of February focuses on black history, the students in Travis Armknecht and Caitlin Munguia’s classes chose to look not only backward but also forward by interviewing prominent black St. Louisans.
For sophomores Xia Brown and Jessica Carter, both in the music pathway, meeting jazz musician and SIUE music professor Prince Wells III helped them realize that Black History Month doesn’t have to only be about the past, but can also be about the local individuals who are making an impact now – even if they aren’t always as well-known.
“You always talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, or Rosa Parks, or somebody like that, but you don’t actually know common people who actually made a big difference,” Carter said. “In your street, in your community, or in your city – they don’t need to impact the entire world, or like the entire nation.”
Brown said she recognized the connection between the well-known historical figures and the people in the community doing good work today.
“Whenever you think about black history month, there’s the famous people who made a difference, so when I was younger, I thought those were the only people who made a difference,” Brown said. “But it didn’t just take them – they influenced the common people to make a difference.”
Freshman Nyla Burns, a visual art student who is also in the foundations class, got to see the project from both sides, taking portraits of Judge Evelyn Baker, Missouri’s first black female circuit court judge, and interviewing Boeing engineer Chris Miller.
“I met someone who has done something good for our society,” Burns said. “[Miller] created a flight simulator, he’s probably going to create another one. And he’s written books, and I can tell my children in the future, if I ever have kids, that I met this person.”
Burns sees the significance of the Black History Month STEAM Museum as a tool for learning.
“I think [this project] is impactful and important because our generation really needs to know about these important people and what they did for the community,” Burns said.
For Carter, the project and the Foundations of Journalism class have been an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really, really brought me out of my comfort zone,” Carter said. “I took this class to experience different ways of writing, but it’s more than that.“