Verizon will kick off Black History Month by conducting an interactive art educational and live workshop program. The program commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott triggered by Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her front seat to a white passenger. During the boycott thousands of blacks refused to ride the buses for 382 days. The boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated seating was unconstitutional.
Verizon’s program includes a four city tour in New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia that began in late January. Actor James Earl Jones, who has been featured in many Verizon radio and television ads, will kick off the tour in New York.
Children’s book author Faith Ringgold will also participate in the tour/workshop. Ringgold is known for her painted story quilts or art that combines painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Ringgold’s art has been exhibited in museums across Europe, South America, United States, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. During the tour, Ringgold will narrate portions of her book If A Bus Could Talk, which tells the story ofRosa Parks.
Verizon plans to donate computers, software, and printers worth $100,000 to three schools in each city during the tour. Scholastic Incorporated, The Global Children’s Publishing & Media Company, together with Verizon’s literacy organization will donate over 3,000 books to the schools.
When asked if the purpose of Verizon’s program is to bring attention to the educational needs in those underprivileged communities, Verizon’s spokesperson John Bonomo says, “Verizon typically donates computers and books to schools as part of cultural celebrations. We’re continuing with that tradition because literacy is Verizon’s major corporate signature program. In this case, we’re providing donations to enhance learning at 12 schools in four different cities.”
The interactive portion of the program will consist of professional artists from Soul Poetry Cafe. They will conduct interactive poetry reading and writing sessions for students, who will also receive lessons from the Social and PublicArtResourceCenter, a company that conducts educational community-based artwork. By using their new computers, students will create a virtual mural that conveys events leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Bonomo says the purpose of the mural is to have students reflect on important historical events.
“This is just another way for students to connect with history. There’s no better way to learn about a subject – and in this case, an important cultural/American historical event.” The virtual mural, he says, will be a lasting remembrance of this important event.