The Truth Staff
Thirty-three fifth and sixth graders from MLK Jr. Academy for Boys and their five adult chaperones left Toledo by chartered bus on May 23 for Washington, D.C. and experienced the trip of a lifetime, courtesy of school booster William Liddell.
The now 94-year old Liddell had approached the school in 2020, before the pandemic hit, to express his desire to see the students travel to the nation’s capital. He came again this school year and approached Sheila Cook, MLK Community Outreach and Resources Coordinator, and said, “Get it going! I’m going to raise the money.”
Raise it he did. Liddell and friends raised $12,000, enough for transportation, hotel rooms and food. “The kids didn’t have to spend a thing,” says Cook.
The group’s first full day in the Capital was spent visiting a host of the spectacular sights the city has to offer: the MLK Jr. Memorial, the Supreme Court building, the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II memorial, the Vietnam memorial and the Holocaust Museum, says Cook, who was one of the adults on the trip. The six grade boys received their six grade certificates at the site of the MLK Memorial.
The second day was devoted to a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That second day is the day the boys, and the adults for that matter, will be talking about for quite a while. The boys were split into groups to tour the museum.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, established by a 2003 Act of Congress, is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive museum devoted to documenting and displaying the African-American story and the impact of that story on world history.
The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is next to the Washington Monument and has collected around 37,000 objects. The museum opened to the public in September 2016 and is the newest of the 19 Smithsonian institutions.
“The boys had mixed emotions,” says Cook. “There were tears, anger and questions about how we were depicted.”
The students learned about how African Americans have been treated in the past but also what they have accomplished in the past and the present. After a lunch outside of the museum, they wanted to return and learn more, says Cook. “They were just sponges about learning about themselves.”
On the group’s return, Liddell, of course, was curious about how the trip went. He is eager to help again next year, says Cook, but in the future other groups, such as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, will also be involved in the fundraising effort.
This was the first time the MLK Jr. Academy students had the opportunity to visit the Capital but certainly not the last.