Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy
Select this link “I am America” to see a music video that highlights the work undertaken at the Lincoln sights in Springfield by the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy youth employment program in 2016. The song, “I am America,” is written and performed by Antonio Neal. The music video is produced by The Phelon Company.
Activities that are part of "The Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy" have taken place since Abraham Lincoln's 204 birthday, February 12, 2103. The goal of this initiative is to inspire area youth, junior high to high school age, with a message of empowerment and hope by presenting the stories of challenges that have been faced and overcome by those who have come before us.
The Academy's goal is to reach students who could most use a positive message of courage and hope. The Academy organizers want the participants to understand that positive life lessons can be found in the past.
Begun in 1956, the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield set out to become the positive place for children in the area. The Boys and Girls Club facility in use today was built in 1960 on an historic piece of property at the intersection of 15th and Monroe Streets. Today, The Boys and Girls Club serves approximately 900 youth, in eleven locations, including our Central Unit, as well as 10 elementary and middle schools throughout the local area. Each day, The Club provides character building activities, academic programs, and healthy activities all geared towards helping The Club members become responsible citizens in our community, live healthy lifestyles, and achieve the success they are capable of.
Frontiers International, Inc., a national, non-profit, nonsectarian service organization, is among the oldest African-American national service organizations in the United States. The organization was founded in 1936, to provide an outlet and opportunity for African American males to collectively give service to their communities through a civic leadership organization that did not discriminate against them as was the custom of other service organizations at that time. One major effort of Frontiers International has been to assist in the development of our youth through Junior Frontier clubs. The importance of attaining a good education is one of the foundational planks upon which the Junior Frontiers clubs are built.
Founded in 2004, The Outlet's goal is to provide young men with a place to plug into something positive. To help young men, ages 12-22, develop the ability and skill to be capable of making responsible life decisions, holding real and meaningful spiritual values, explore their gifts, talents, and realize their dreams and aspirations. The Outlet wants to create a network of support for our youth, not simply by serving them and their families in the home, but also by partnering with communities, local churches in our outreach programs, and by having a presence in the public schools, where our youth spend the majority of their time.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students who wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service. In 1950 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity became the first Greek organization to develop a youth auxiliary group, the Sigma Beta Club. The Sigma Beta Club offers a unique opportunity to develop values, leadership skills and social/cultural awareness in our youth during their developmental years.
Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy programs utilize a variety of locations, media and activities to emphasize the dreams of freedom of generations who have come before us and how those past dreams relate to today. Topics have included slavery; the Underground Railroad; the Civil War; Reconstruction; the World War II era; and, the modern Civil Rights struggles.
Trips to historic sites and museums have included both local and regional destinations. An example of this was the 2014, Heritage and Science Weekend trip to Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield, IL; Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, MO; Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Republic, MO; and, George Washington Carver National monument in Diamond, MO. This trip was made possible through the National Park Foundation's Ticket to Ride program.
The Academy programs have included: presentations, Civil War reenacting, films, and a variety of hands on activities. The Academy has taken place at a variety of locations, including, Abundant Faith Christian Center, Springfield Illinois African American History Museum, Old State Capitol State Historic Site, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois.
The success of the Academy to date would not have been possible without the involvement of a variety of partners including, Lincoln Home National Historic Site; The Outlet; Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois; Old State Capitol State Historic Site; Abraham Lincoln Association; Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area; Springfield African American History Museum; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity; United States Colored Troops Living History Association; Springfield Frontiers; and, Sangamon & Menard County 4-H. In addition, it is because of the generosity of these partners, with their time and other resources, that the costs for these programs have been minimal.
The first session of the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy, "Come Join us Brothers," was held on February 12, 2013, at Abundant Faith Christian Center. This Academy session introduced the youth to the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, United States Colored Troops, and life a Civil War soldier. In this image, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity brother Larry Hemingway, Sr., moderates a panel discussion on how lessons of history can be implemented into our lives today. Click here for more photos from that event.
The second session of the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy, "Come Join Us Brother II," was held on August 3, 2013, at the Springfield, Illinois African American History Museum; the Old State Capitol State Historic Site; Lincoln Home National Historic Site; and Oak Ridge Cemetery. This Academy session included information about the Civil War and the United States Colored Troops and featured a Civil War encampment, "soldier training" for the youth, a parade through downtown Springfield, and a visit to Civil War graves at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Click here for more photos from that event.
On February 12, 2014, the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy presented a program at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois. This Academy session included information on the rights guaranteed to us in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that were a legacy of the Civil War. The session also included presentations on Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, and the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. The day ended with model airplane flight demonstrations.Click here for more photos from that event.
The Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy presented a "Heritage and Science Weekend" from May 30 through June 1, 2014. This program featured visits to historic sites in Illinois and Missouri was made possible through the National Park Foundation's Ticket to Ride program. Click here for more photos from that event.
On June 12, 2014, Professor Yohuru Williams visited Lincoln Home National Historic Site to present "In the Shadow of Lincoln: The Civil War and the Long Civil Rights Movement" as part of Lincoln Home and the State Historic Sites at Springfield, IL commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following his public presentation, Professor Williams took time to have some pizza and visit with area young people. Click here to see Professor Williams' lecture.
On June 26, 2014, the Old State Capitol State Historic Site was the venue for a dramatic portrayal of the Civil War to Civil Rights struggle as actors presented the story of freedom through the perspectives of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Following the program, area youth enjoyed refreshments and visited with the actors. Click here to see the presentation by Fritz Klein portraying Abraham Lincoln and Jim Lucas portraying Martin Luther King, Jr.
During the summer of 2014, Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Boys &Girls Clubs of Central Illinois with The Outlet presented a program on the 1908 Springfield Race Riot through classroom discussions and a walking tour on the history and legacy of the riots. The program was repeated in February 2016, with young ladies with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority ASCEND Youth Enrichment Program. Click here to see photos from the summer 2014 program.
In August 2014, four youth presented a National Park Service Underground Railroad Junior Ranger activity to hundreds of young people visiting the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area exhibit at the Illinois State Fair. Click here to see more photos from that program.
During the fall of 2014, area youth participated in the filming of segments for the Illinois Freedom Project at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site and Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Discussions focused on the struggle for freedom in Illinois and how those struggles relate to today, and how historic places can inspire us. Click here to visit the Illinois Freedom Project web site.
On President's Day, February 16, 2015, Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy partners presented a private screening of the acclaimed film "Selma." The day's activities also included a discussion of the importance of the events depicted in the film, including the historic context of what occurred and the legacy of the sacrifice of those who struggled in Selma. Click here to see more photos from that program.
An event commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Funeral at Oak Ridge Cemetery took place at Oak Ridge Cemetery on May 4, 2015. Young people participated in a rededication of the public receiving vault where Lincoln was first laid to rest, planted Oak trees, and listened to some inspiring presentations.
During the summer of 2015, the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy, partnered with Greening Youth Foundation to engage a youth mentor who worked with six area youth for the summer. The youth assisted visitors with navigating the many historic sites and also informally communicated the Illinois Freedom stories at Lincoln Home National Historic Site;the Old State Capitol State Historic Site;and, the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. The youth dressed in Civil War uniforms representing the U.S. Colored Troops. A culminating program was presented for visitors to the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area exhibit at the Illinois State Fair. Click here to see more photos from that program.
On President's Day, February 15, 2016, the Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy partners came together to present the movie "42," the Jackie Robinson story. The film was followed by discussions with the young people and community leaders. Click here to see more photos from that program.
During the summer of 2016 twelve young people presented the story of freedom at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Old State Capitol and Lincoln Tomb State Historic Sites to countless visitors from throughout the country and around the world. They were also an inspiration to the Springfield community as they marched through the streets of downtown Springfield and worked with local youth in summer camps. This group also presented their program at the Illinois State Fair. Click here to see more photos from that program.