Website makes black history come alive

2012-02-20T19:00:00Z 2012-02-21T12:00:32Z Website makes black history come aliveBy PAT KINNEY, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
February 20, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

WATERLO, Iowa --- The 19th in a series of videotaped "oral history" interviews with prominent local African-Americans has been completed.

The history of Waterloo African-American radio station KBBG, as related by station president Lou Porter, is the latest installment in the oral history series, "African-American Voices of the Cedar Valley."

The project began in 2005. The interviews are now available on a namesake interactive website. The KBBG segment is in post-production and should be available there soon.

The project is the result of a longtime collaboration between University of Northern Iowa communications studies professor Joyce Chen and black history scholar David Jackson of Cedar Falls. He is now an assistant professor in the department of African and African-American studies at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, Colo., and continuing his Iowa research under the auspices of that college.

Chen emphasized the interactive nature of the site.

"I want to involve the community," Chen said. "I want to spread the word so that community members can take advantage of the technology and discuss important issues" online.

Jackson is trying out the website and oral histories on his students, to show them how local African-American history can be taught --- by showing that local people also were part of black history, not just national figures.

"We are looking at ways to model the Iowa project and make it a Denver (Colo.) project," said Jackson, who's tasking his students with finding similar local figures in the Denver metropolitan area. It can be a valuable black-history teacher-education tool.

The project started with assistance from the African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of Waterloo.

KBBG president Porter was interviewed by UNI faculty member and KBBG on-air host Scharron Clayton for her installment in the series. Porter indicated the overall project, as described, should have lasting value. It matches the mission her late husband, Jimmie Porter, had when he founded KBBG more than three decades ago --- "communicate to educate," and empower people in the process.

"I think the point is that people will be able to find out things they never did before," Porter said. "If it's going to be like an ongoing open forum of some kind where you keep adding things people will benefit from, I think our children will be the biggest beneficiaries of all. That it's available for all kids, I think is good."

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