More than 300 Newark students boarded buses today headed to Washington, D.C., for a once-in-a-lifetime trip sponsored by Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins to visit the National Museum of African America History & Culture.
“When I first heard the Smithsonian was opening a museum dedicated to the African-American experience in this country, I thought immediately that this would be a wonderful opportunity for the children in Newark to learn about their history,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said.
“But I also am aware that many of our families do not have the economic means to make this sojourn to Washington,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “I am grateful that so many in the community stepped up to help make this a reality for 300 children from Newark.”
The trip was planned in conjunction with the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, which helped arrange volunteer opportunities for the children at the Newark YMCA, the Greater Newark Conservancy and an upcoming cleanup of Lincoln Park. Students were required to participate in or commit to community service as a prerequisite for attending the trip.
“We are excited to be part of this arts education and African American history excursion to provide our youth with a sense of history and community that will build their character through volunteerism and instill a civic pride for our great City of Newark,” said Anthony Smith, Executive Director at Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District. “Newark has always been a bedrock of arts and culture and programs like this enrich the lives of our youth as we prepare the next generation for greatness."
The eighth- and ninth-grade students on the trip attend both charter and public, including Quitman Street Community School, Great Oaks Charter School, Louise A Spencer School, North Star Academy, Arts High School, JFK School, as well as the JFK Recreation Center, SheWins, and 21st Century Soaring Scholars Afterschool Program, which is comprised of students from Arts High, University High, Eagle Academy and American History High Academy.
The day began early at Symphony Hall, where eighth- and ninth-grade students gathered before boarding seven buses. The convoy arrived before noon in Washington, D.C., with the first stop at Mulebone, a well-known Washington eatery that specializes in Southern fare.
From there, they headed to the museum, on the National Mall. At the museum, students met with U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat from the Trenton area, before moving through the museum’s exhibitions from Africa and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to African-American achievement in arts and culture, sports, science and more.
"Today was an amazing day in Washington DC,” said Honor Marable, who attends Arts High School as well as the 21st Century Soaring Scholars Afterschool Program. “Seeing the culture and heritage of Black people was amazing because I got to see what they had been through. I got to see how the world changed over time.”
Josephine A. Quaye, project director for 21st Century Soaring Scholars, said the trip to the museum was inspiring.
“Watching our scholars unapologetically celebrate, discover and uncover ideals and images of their heritage and culture was a defining moment in my career in youth leadership,” Quaye said. “Their experience today will forever shape the way they see the world and themselves. We are grateful to Councilwoman Jenkins and the City of Newark for giving us the opportunity to experience such a monumental museum in our nation’s capital."
Charles Love, a father of three children who attend Uncommon Schools' North Star Academy, said the visit to the museum brought history to life for the children.
“A lot of people think history is just a study of dates and reading information about things that happened in the past,” said Love, who is also running for the school board.
“That is certainly not the case. History in the human mind is always present,” Love said. “The past is always present. With the election of Donald Trump, it is probably the most important time for African American scholars to learn about their history. To learn about not just the names of great people before them but the practical knowledge that was lost.”
Jaklyn DeVore, who was joined on the trip by her 19-year old daughter, said the visit to the museum was an emotional journey.
“I went through a myriad of emotions from sorrow, deep pain, to pride and joy,” said DeVore, who serves as treasurer of Women in Newark for Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins. “Being here with the children, including my 19-year old daughter was also priceless. They were in awe. Most wonderful day I've had in quite a while.”
Chaneyfield Jenkins also thanked the numerous donors who contributed to make the trip possible as well as all the chaperones who volunteered their time to supervise the students.