TEXARKANA, Texas — Throughout June, a local nonprofit has hosted a Juneteenth event every weekend.

The Scholars and the Texarkana College Black Student Association collaborated to host the eighth annual “Keeping History Alive” musical performance event, celebrating African American heritage and history through powerful performances and educational presentations.

“Keeping History Alive” was held on Saturday, June 22 at Texarkana College’s Stilwell Theater.

The musical performance featured three acts and a finale, a showcase panel highlighting black authors, and a special performance by guest Babi Kwasi. In addition, before and after the event The Scholars had the opportunity to sell their products such as homemade desserts, sunglasses, and more.

The Scholar’s mission is to provide entrepreneurship programs for boys and girls ages 9 to 16 while increasing academic skills.

Special guest Charles J. Harris Jr., also known as Babi Kwasi, co-founder of Ayubu Kamau Kings and Queens Performance Arts emphasized that being part of the “Keeping History Alive” event allows him to teach and share.

“Any artist regardless of their craft or profession should use that craft or art form in a way that liberates themselves and their people, in other words, your art should have purpose,” Kwasi said. “James Brown got purpose, like Muhammad Ali got purpose, James Brown don’t box and like Muhammad Ali don’t sing but they all revolve around the same song of liberation so basically I’m going to do that through the power of sound and vibration.”

Aside from the array of musical performances various monologues were performed, the first was “Dream Boogie” by Langston Hughes, performed by Cayson Unamba, and “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, performed by Mary Adele Johnson Philips.

The black author showcase panel consisted of four local artists, Dr. Taryn Givan, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Lisa Lowery, and Mary Adele Johnson Philips. The authors answered a series of questions such as their inspiration to becoming an author, their advice to other young authors, and to give a summary as to what their book was about.

Marie Ferdinand-Harris, author of “Transformed: The Winning Side of Losing” expressed immense gratitude for being on the panel and emphasized how meaningful it was to be involved in such a powerful production.

“It provides a platform to share my story, celebrate my heritage, and encourage others to pursue their dreams despite the odds,” Harris said. “This opportunity allows me to connect with others who have faced adversity and inspire a new generation of achievers.”

Harris was the first-ever Haitian to play in the WNBA.

“That was a tremendous honor, especially coming from an area where success often seems out of reach,” she said. “It signifies breaking barriers and inspiring others who face similar challenges.”

After the performance, a few of The Scholars reflected on what it meant to participate in the musical performance and their experience.

“It means a lot to me because first, it helped me get out of my comfort zone because I’m not really a people person, so being up there having to recite a poem in front of a lot of people, it was a good experience,” Charis McCurry said.

Charis McCurry, 15, a Scholar for the past three years emphasized her hope that other kids will be inspired to learn more about Juneteenth and its significance.

Another Scholar, who has been part of the “Keeping History Alive” production for the past two years, expressed gratitude and excitement for the opportunity to be involved in something so important.

“I had an amazing time tonight I was scared I was going to freeze up and mess up my lines but I didn’t and I give all the glory to God,” Shelby Collins said. “I hope other kids take away that we cannot forget our past, we have to remember our past to know where we are going in the future,” Collins said.

The Scholars will conclude their Juneteenth celebrations on June 29 with the Terry Rogers Basketball Tournament at 1900 Marietta Street, Texarkana, Arkansas. For more information contact [email protected].


Special guest Babi Kwasi, center, poses for a group photo during the eighth annual Keeping History Alive event Saturday, June 22, 2024, in the Stilwell Theater at Texarkana College. Kwasi discussed the significance of storytelling through drums, vibrations and sounds. The Scholars and the college’s Black Student Association hosted the event. (Staff photo by Sharda James)

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