Children of ages ranging from preschool to high school are portraying 30 more groundbreaking African American figures in history this year in “The Living Black Wax Museum.”
While last year’s theme focused on trailblazing people in science, technology, engineering, and math, the young actors are preparing costumes and speeches to retell the stories of notable African Americans who have made contributions to art, literature, film, music, sports, and fashion, according to a news release.
“It’s actually the kids…doing something about history, that is educational, that is about their culture, and our community — I think it just captures people’s imaginations,” said Rebecca Wheeler Walston, program chairwoman for Jack and Jill of America’s Hampton chapter.
Visitors can expect to hear the stories in the form of short speeches from actors dressed to the likes of Will Smith, Aretha Franklin, Gabby Douglas, and Jackie Robinson.
And new this year, a chance to contribute to community art project, “Pieces of History,” directed by Steve Prince, artist in residence at the College of William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art.
Wheeler Walston said “Pieces of History,” a depiction of Booker T. Washington and educator Mary S. Peake, will serve as a standing attraction in the chapter’s future exhibitions.
The local chapter and officials at the Hampton History Museum made the decision in 2019 to add two showings of the exhibition as a result of nearly 500 attendees at its inaugural event or what museum administrators called an overwhelming response.
With the guest count rising to approximately 700 the year after, this year was sure to have two showings, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with the addition of Prince’s community art workshop in between the two at 12:30 p.m.
So long as people are drawn to what Seamus McGrann, promotions director at the Hampton History Museum, said is an enlightening and charming presentation of history, “The Living Black Wax Museum” is going to grow and could be expanded to two days in the future.
“[This event] is one where parents and grandparents can get the younger kids really interested and excited about history and then see themselves in it,” McGrann said.
Jack and Jill of America Inc. is a nonprofit operated by mothers who are “dedicated to raising the next generation of African American leaders while enhancing the lives of all children,” according to the news release.
Wheeler Walston related “The Living Black Wax Museum” to the organization’s mission and said the event is a unique and interactive way for the children to learn Black History while also focusing on skills like writing and public speaking as they deliver their monologues to hundreds of exhibit visitors.
Another aspect of the mission develops authentically during times like last year’s event when she said U.S. Rep Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-3rd), a Jack and Jill of America alumnus, attended the program and listened to a child dressed like him deliver a presentation about his contributions to the community.
Scott would take a photo with the child and sign his speech but also at a later date visited the local chapter and spoke to the middle and high school-age teens about public service in Congress, Wheeler Watson said.
“These are the kinds of things that we hope for…that our children are making connections and they’re catching a vision for who they could be and that children just like them have accomplished the same dreams they have,” she said.
Tickets are at a reduced $2 rate for “The Living Black Wax Museum” at the Hampton History Museum, 120 Old Hampton Lane, March 28 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Click here for more information.