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WKYC, District partner on Cleveland black history project





WKYC-TV and CMSD have partnered on a Cleveland black history storytelling project and will provide glimpses of student work this month during the station’s 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. newscasts.

“Black History Makers” takes various forms, including a stage production, digital portraits of famous figures from Cleveland’s past, a virtual reality headset that transports users to the historic Karamu House theater and a video game that depicts Olympic legend Jesse Owens clearing hurdles. The Cleveland High School for Digital Arts was the main content creator.

“We are thrilled to partner with our neighbor across the street, Cleveland High School for Digital Arts,” said Margaret Bernstein, WKYC’s director of advocacy and community initiatives and executive producer of the community affairs program “We The People.”

“The students have created unforgettable tributes to famous Clevelanders such as Jesse Owens, Garrett Morgan and Dorothy Dandridge, using graphic design, digital music, animation and other high-tech tools.  This has been a great collaboration, and we love putting the immense talent of these teens in the spotlight.”

The public can get a look in person at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23 during a live performance of an original theater production, “I Dream of Cleveland: Black History Makers,” at the Cleveland School of the Arts, 2064 Stearns Road. Before that date, the production will be performed during the day at select schools.

The piece traces the journey of Bianca, a high school student who is indifferent to the accomplishments of figures from Cleveland’s black history.

But like Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” she is enlightened after falling into a deep sleep. Writer Langston Hughes serves as a guide as she crosses paths with inventor Morgan, actress Dandrige, political pioneers Carl and Louis Stokes and others.

“I Dream of Cleveland” was written by CSA’s Scott Miller and is directed by Jimmie Woody, who teaches at the Cleveland High School for Digital Arts.

Between Digital Arts, a school model conceived by the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, and CSA, about 120 students have been involved in the project, Woody said.

Woody said the multimedia approach of “Black History Makers” is designed to engage students and draw them into the subject. He said students who participated also learned how to collaborate across art forms and respect each other’s work.

Marvin Watts, a senior at Digital Arts, assembled a lot of the raw material for the theater production. Marvin said he knew a lot of the history from hearing it discussed at home but predicted that “Black History Makers” will grab the attention of peers who aren’t well informed.

“It’s different,” he said. “I’ve never seen an educational video or program come about with this way of explaining it.”

Students will talk about their contributions to the project in the spots that air on WKYC. Each will end his or her segment by saying: “I am a black history maker.”

The clips will debut Wednesday and be shown during the 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. newscasts Monday through Friday. During the week of Feb. 19, the spots also will air during live Winter Olympics coverage that follows the late news.

The Feb. 2 installment of “We The People” featured Woody and Sierra Davis, a Cleveland School of the Arts junior who plays Bianca in the theater production. Other contributors to the project will be featured on this Friday’s segment.

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