OIIR Celebrates Black History

Jeopardy-style games, a Sankofa event, and a mobile history museum were part of this year’s celebrations.

Written by the OYA Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations (OIIR)

With so many of this year’s Oregon Youth Authority Black history events occurring under COVID-19 restrictions, the recognition of Black history started in February, stretched well into March, and became an inclusive experience, tying in some of Women’s History Month as well.

From Jeopardy games to influential movies, an inspiring Sankofa event at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility, and an eye-opening Mobile Museum, these past two months have made a huge educational impact on the youth at all the OYA facilities.

framed photos and artwork depicting Africans and African Americans, sitting on a table
Images from the Mobile Museum of Black history.

The Jeopardy games tested the knowledge of the youth, in a fun way, on topics like Black icons, music, and sports. The games allowed the youth to try their best to recall any information they already knew about Black history, and if they did not know the answers, it was explained to them, so that they now possess the knowledge on that specific topic.

The Sankofa event following the Mobile Museum at Rogue Valley the evening of Feb. 23 was really moving and gave three youth a beautiful platform on which to speak. These young men were able to share their life experiences and struggles with everyone. They spoke of where they are now and how their futures were full of nothing but positive aspirations after their time with OYA.

A t-shirt that says "I am Black history, Oregon Youth Authority, RVYCF, Sankofa, Af. Am. Group
A Black history t-shirt from Rogue Valley.

Hearing these three young men speak was touching and beyond inspirational to the other youth who were attending and taking it all in. Their speeches brought a light of hope to all in attendance and were an amazing example of what all the youth at OYA could be capable of. Their hope and powerful speeches reaffirmed for many of the staff why we are here doing what we do.

The Mobile Museum was a big part of OIIR’s Black history celebrations this year and ignited conversations started across many facilities by showcasing many aspects of Black history. The museum touched on the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of America’s history with its people of color. Since the museum extended through February and March, the presenter, Denis Carline, also focused on women of Black history to tie the celebratory meaning of both months together. Mr. Carline spoke of how Black women’s actions created change for Black people in America and how they contributed to the past and current civil rights movements.

A three-panel display board titled "Cultural Appropriation" with text and photos of Black people.
A display about cultural appropriation, made by a youth at Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility.

The museum was so inspirational that Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility had the youth put together their own projects on Black women in history to display as part of their Women’s History Month festivities. The young ladies were proud to showcase their work for all to see.

A close-up of a display board with a photo and text that says, "Edmona Lewis was the first woman of African-American and Native-American heritage to achieve international fame and recognition as a sculptor in the world of fine arts."
A display about Black and Native American protest, created by a youth at Oak Creek.

With the closing of our Black history celebrations, we hope all who attended the multiple events and festivities had an amazing time and gained something positive from their experiences.

Thank you to all who assisted and participated in any of the many events!

A collage showing images of numerous Black people.

Black History Mobile Museum

Written by Denis Carline and the OIIR Team

It was inspirational to see the depth of history surrounding us.

Youth A.M.

Denis Carline and his associate Michael Bontemps brought 60 years of education and historical experiences to all the OYA facilities they visited in February and March for the celebration of Black History Month.

Both Mr. Carline and Mr. Bontemps are and have been educators and coaches to many of Oregon’s youth over the years. Their expansive wealth of knowledge on history and their experience working with youth allowed them to connect with OYA youth and staff in an incredibly effective and engaging way during the museum. Anyone attending could see many of the youth not just listening but absorbing the information that was being shared with them. The interactive aspects of the museum made the kids excited and curious about Black History and allowed them to connect with the information in many ways.

Mr. Carline and Mr. Bontemps provided artwork, artifacts, books, magazines, quotes by influential people of Black history, and music for all to experience.

Watching the youth learning how to use a vinyl record player, learning what a record player was, what it meant to people and how it affected history was amazing to see and has become an unforgettable encounter to the youth.

Three young men look at pictures from the museum laid out on a table.

Mr. Carline felt it was of the upmost importance for the youth to see, read and touch something from bygone times and experiences with Black history in order to bridge the generation gap and bring parts of history to the present.

The museum was not only a learning experience for the youth but also for the staff who attended. It was amazing to see some of the OYA staff and educators engaging in the museum materials with the youth as well. Many staff and educators stated that they had learned things they had not known before, not just about Black history, but about American history as a whole.

Not only did Mr. Carline provide a lot of great material for everyone to experience and learn about, but he also spoke to the youth as a whole and on individual levels during their time in the museum. He took the time to answer their questions and bring the superficial conversation of certain topics of Black history to a deeper level for some of the youth.

Images and displays from the museum. Images include Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Zora Neale Hurston, Coretta Scott King, and others.

I could tell his words really hit home for some of the youth. Even if the youth did not outwardly say it, you could see it on their faces. His authenticity was refreshing.

Jaclyn S., Young Women’s Transition Program staff member

Mr. Carline guided all who attended through the beginnings of Black history in America, from how slaves were brought over to America on ships, then sold, and how they were treated during those times. He continued to the changes of Black history in America, when slavery became illegal, and the ways that abolition affected the country.

He addressed the movements for equal rights, policy changes at government levels and the many ways women were just as influential with most of these changes.

Mr. Carline explained the false labeling of the Black Panthers as terrorists, showing how they were a group of people who wanted to help people that were struggling.

He described how the color of their skin impacted the country’s perception of Black Panthers as terrorists when they chose to simply invoke their Second Amendment right. In the eyes of the public majority, the Black Panthers’ exercising of their right to bear arms overshadowed the good things they were trying to do for Black people in their communities.

Mr. Carline’s presentation also touched on how sports were affected and influenced by racism. Many very talented people of color struggled to be recognized in the sport they played. Some were not allowed to participate in certain sports at all. Many of these athletes overcame discrimination and racism and paved the way for many of today’s athletes of color. Lastly, Mr. Carline led us all to the Black history that is currently unfolding in this country by addressing the Black Lives Matter Movement in some of his work.

A man with his fist raised talks to a group of four young men
Mr. Carline shares Black history with youth at Rogue Valley.

Mr. Carline only shared facts and let all who attended know that all personal stances and beliefs were respected. He emphasized he was there to share his knowledge, experiences, and facts of a major part of American history.

I believe there is no bad kid, just bad moments.

Denis Carline

Thank You

  • To all the group life coordinators (GLCs) who came together for this experience and assisted in making this a well-coordinated, COVID-19 friendly/safe event for all the youth, staff, and presenters.
  • To all the superintendents, school principals, security managers and educators who assisted and participated in this experience. You are greatly appreciated, and your presence and engagement was felt by all.
  • To Denis Carline and Michael Bontemps for taking the time to provide this amazingly interactive and educational experience to our youth.
  • To all the youth who assisted in the set up and breakdown of all the materials at each facility and to all the youth who attended, engaged, and enjoyed this experience, we thank you!

– The OIIR Team

Black History Mobile Museum Photos

Photo of B.B. King with the quote, "The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you."

Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility and Camp Tillamook – Feb. 12

It was really cool to be a part of everything. I learned a lot and it was really fun. Thank you!

Youth J. P.

Oak Creek YCF and Young Women’s Transition Program (Albany, OR) – Feb. 17

I thoroughly enjoyed the process of setting this up and the history that I learned in the process.

Youth E. F.

Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility (Grants Pass, OR) – Feb. 23

MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility (Woodburn, OR) – March 4-6

Denis is very inspirational. I really appreciated him taking the time to come share this with our youth.

Jasmine N., OYA staff member

Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility (Burns, OR) – March 9

When I seen that museum, I was in awe and a quote inspirationally popped into my head: ‘We are not who you say we are, but we are who we believe we can be.'”

Youth A. B.

Camp Riverbend (La Grande, OR) – The museum will visit their campus on March 23.

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