Every February, Reverend Jessica Kemp teaches the kids from her church youth group how to identify with the power of the past.
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is a large, historic Black church located in the heart of San Antonio’s East Side. Kemp says the centerpiece of their Black History Month program is a “living museum” where “our kids get to choose who they want to be.”
Most choose familiar figures known to just about anyone. “We will always have the Big Three,” Kemp says with a chuckle. “Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks.”
But next year, Kemp, Antioch’s minister of children, youth, and young adults, plans to mix things up. Working with the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, Kemp will teach the kids about local legends—leaders from this very neighborhood who struggled for a better, more just, and altogether more whole San Antonio.
Leaders like Rev. S. H. James, the pastor and civil rights leader who fought for fair employment laws. Or Artemisia Bowden, the pioneering educator who took the helm of the all-Black St. Philips Day School in 1902 and, over the next half century, helped build it into a college that is still thriving today.
Next year, says Kemp, she wants her youth group kids to hear about these local heroes—and aspire to be like them. “This gives us an opportunity to expose our children to people that are from their community,” says Kemp. “San Antonio [people] that affect their lives today, and that they may not even realize [existed].”