Since its earliest beginnings as a nation, American history has been taught selectively. Educational curricula have consistently avoided and misrepresented issues related to people of color. These distortions of the American experience have bred cultural intolerance, created an atmosphere of hostility toward African American people, and a total disregard for their contributions to all aspects of American life. Since the blatant omission of the extraordinary history of the African American people from American text books, African Americans, as well as other races, have not benefitted from it. That same omission has fueled a legacy of misconceptions about African culture and mores which has caused a division among African Americans and Caucasians that continues to cast a negative shadow over these United States. The systematic avoidance of teaching an inclusive American history to all of our nation’s children has created a hole in America’s coat of armor. We lack the tools to exist in a global society without serious ethnic conflicts threatening our internal stability.
The Black Footprints Collection’s presentations bring the extraordinary history of the African American people to the forefront.
The majority of the nation’s children are segregated along economic lines and, because people of color continue to be disproportionately represented at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, these divisions are also along racial lines. Even at schools with a mixture of ethnicities, students are segregated socially and academically. Hence, few American children have the opportunity to interact with people of various cultures whose perspectives of the world differ from their own. Schools get a poor report card in righting the situation. As our society becomes more pluralistic, American education continues to sidestep the incorporation of the full range of cultures that contributed to the making of this great country. People whose backgrounds have not prepared them to deal effectively with people of other cultures have fallen short on their abilities to interpret many of the activities occurring in their contemporary environment. When there is a lack of correct information individuals come to view each other as the cause of the nation’s problems.
The Black Footprints Collection’s presentations take the documented verbal and visual correct information to the communities.
The lack of knowledge about cultural and historical truths, conveyed at a time in a child’s life when it can have an effect, is one of the ills affecting this nation. African American children know of no history in which they can take pride. They lack relevant historical models from which to draw inspiration. They are fully primed to soak up poplar models of African American life that glorify violence, money, sex and drugs because they know of no viable alternative. Children so ill informed of significant elements of their society will be unable to make well-informed decisions as adults.
The Black Footprints’ Collection presents an array of positive role models from virtually every walk of life as alternatives to the negative elements among them.
African Americans are told of their ancestor’s enslavement and exploitation, but when it comes to the rich legacy of protests, creativity, and perseverance to rise up for change, facts become limited. The Collection fills that void and educates all age groups and all races to the aftermath of enslavement and exploitation.
Mrs. Mattie P. Sanders is a retired Guidance Director at Berkeley Middle School in The Berkeley County School District with 34 total years in education. Prior to her employment in Berkeley County, Ms. Sanders taught at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, Rabaut Junior High School in Washington, DC, and Baptist Hill High School in Hollywood, SC. Mrs. Sanders received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Howard University and the Masters of Education Degree in Secondary Guidance and Counseling from The Citadel Military College of SC.
Mrs. Sanders has been named Tri- County Counseling Association’s Counselor of-the-Year three times. In 1997; she became South Carolina Counseling Association’s Guidance Counselor-of-the-Year. In that same year, she received “The Extra Miler” Award presented by The Berkeley County School District.
Mrs. Sanders is the founder of B. R. I. G. H. T. Historical Organization, Inc. which is a 501 (c) 3 Tax Exempt Non-Profit Organization. B. R. I. G. H. T. stands for “Blacks Righting Injustices and Gaining High Triumphs.” The organization supports the Black History Collection entitled, “Black Footprints: Blacks-Past and Present.” The Black Footprints Collection consists of 13 oral and visual presentations that are presented at schools, community centers, churches, colleges, etc. The presentations uses calendars, paintings, dolls, inventions, discoveries, scrapbooks, magazines, stamp collections, sculptures, games, quizzes, biographies, slavery artifacts and books, to name a few, to teach the one single theme of “self-esteem.” Some of the drawings featured in the collection were drawn by some of Mrs. Sanders’ students. When Mrs. Sanders is not presenting some part of the Black Footprints Collection, she can be found working with The Summerville Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority where she is a member and a consultant for attaining a charitable foundation for the chapter or working as a member of the Bethune Leonard Section of The National Council of Negro Women. Her leisure time is spent playing tennis as a member of The Westside Tennis Club. Home matches are played at the Jack Adams Tennis Facility in Charleston, SC. Another highlight of Mrs. Sanders’ life was when she and one of her daughters competed and won the Southern Equitable Family Tennis Challenge sponsored by the Equitable Life Assurance Society. This win led to an all expense paid trip to compete in the National Equitable Family Tennis Challenge competition held at the same time and place of the United States Tennis Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. Board of Directors:
- Executive Director: Ms. Mattie P. Sanders
- President: Ms. Dorothy Jenkins
- Corresponding Secretary: Ms. Linda Milligan
- Recording Secretary: Ms. LaVern G. Brown
- Treasurer: Mr. Willis Sanders
- Historian: Mr. Thomas P. Williams
- General Manager: Mr. Marion Sanders
Mrs. Sanders landed a job as an English teacher at a Junior High School in Washington, DC and as a new teacher, she was given a very challenging class as far as discipline is concerned. She needed something to capture their attention and make each student responsible for something. She came up with a project idea. The name of the project was, “Who am I? It had to be a visual, self-created, and be presented verbally in class. She was so in awe by the caliber of work that the students created, she displayed them all, including her own. She observed an extreme high degree of self-esteem among the students and that single observation resulted in the idea to collect all sorts of items representing the Black experience.
- A set of biographical drawings of Famous African Americans entitled, “They Had a Dream” were ordered for a display during Black History Month in my classroom.
- Books containing biographies of blacks were acquired from various places for students to research projects for their English classes. These books had to be gotten from various places because the media center had very little to offer on the life and accomplishments of Blacks.
- Realizing that the enthusiasm among the students was heightening, other artifacts were collected for exploration. Some of the items collected were calendars, paintings, post cards, black magazines, newspaper articles and pamphlets. All of the like items were stored together for easy retrieval. Mrs. Sanders continued to collect all sorts of artifacts in an effort to give her students a different perspective of themselves. The collecting really turned into an obsession.
- MSgt. Wilbert Gettys of the U.S. Air Force visited the school with an impressive collection for Black History Month. Mrs. Sanders was so impressed with his collection that she organized her collection items and named them, “Black Footprints: Blacks-Past and Present.” Not only did she name and collect the items, she started to do presentations and exhibits with these items singling out “building self-esteem” as the theme.
- The Black Footprints Collection grew into thirteen presentations. They are: “Teaching Self-Esteem through the Use of Black Dolls”, “The Man Himself: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”, “Kings and Queens of Africa”, “Black Women in the Struggle”, “Black Men in the Struggle”, “Beating the Odds-Sports’ Figures”, “Slavery Artifacts”, “Books and Scrapbooks Chronicling the Black Experience”, “Black Dress, African Attire andAccessories”,“Various Black History Quizzes”, “Black Artifacts and Memorabilia”, “Black Inventors and their Inventions-Black Scientists and their Discoveries” and “What If”-A 45 minute story and skit of what happens when many inventions and discoveries by Blacks disappeared from society.
- Black Footprints: Blacks-Past and Present materialized and became a massive, organized and presentable collection which Mrs. Sanders displayed on a large scale in the Tri-County area of South Carolina.
- B. R. I. G. H. T. (Blacks Righting Injustices and Gaining High Triumphs) Historical Organization, Inc. a 501(c) 3 Non-Profit, Tax Exempt Organization was founded to support the Black Footprints Collection.
- The first Board of Directors was selected. The positions are: Executive Director, President, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Historian and General Manager.
- An office was set up; a logo showing two black footprints was researched and adopted. The logo appears on all business cards, stationery and collection items.
- Scheduled presentations at schools, churches, community centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs became frequent. Mattie Sanders; Executive Director transported and presented the traveling exhibits.
- The collection is database catalogued item by item, showing name, origin, cost, description, manufacturer, size, color, and category. This information is contained in a barcode on each item.
- The doll collection originally named “Teaching Self-Esteem Through the Use of Black Dolls” updated to “Dolls Imitating Humans” with an added section on “Diversity in the Family.” The doll collection is now numbering over 2,000. The following mini exhibits also compose the collection. They are: Dolls in Life Roles such as performing chores, showing patriotism and careers, etc. Dolls demonstrating Celebrations and Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Family Reunions, Rites of Passage, etc. Moods/Feelings/Atmosphere such as happiness or anger is shown through facial expressions and body posture. Health Issues such as amputees, cancer awareness, blindness, etc. Dolls as a Family with brothers, sisters,parents, grandparents, etc. Dolls demonstrating Recreation and Sports activities. Dolls showing Appearances through hairstyles, size, shape and various outfits. The Melting Pot depicts dolls from America and around the world and Stereotypical Images called Pick-a-nin-nies.
- Parts of the Collection have been exhibited at The Black Expo in Charleston, South Carolina, Annapolis Naval Academy, Trident Technical College and hundreds of schools, churches and community centers.
- Accounts of the Collection have been reported on television, radio, magazines and newspapers.
- In 2009, two thousand dolls were exhibited in Berkeley Middle School’s Cafeteria in Moncks Corner, SC over spring break.
We support the collection, preservation and presentation of historical materials and artifacts that chronicle the experiences of people of African descent in America and elsewhere to insure that economically advantaged, disadvantages and handicapped individuals participate in programs which accomplish this mission.
- Gather, identify, and categorize artifacts and information about the rich history and multi-faceted history of the African experience in various formats.
- Preserve the culture of Black Americans by presenting its history through verbal and visual presentations, exhibits and engaging the audiences in these activities.
- Provide a wealth of information through research and documentation of printed materials, photo scrapbooks, copious facsimiles of historical items and, in some cases, actual items, and audio/video recordings that help express the Black experience in America.
- Travel extensively where accessibility to schools, churches, community centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs, exhibits, workshops, seminars, lectures, conventions, expos, etc. can take place in a multicultural setting. This accessibility is for the purpose of educating the masses concerning African American’s rich heritage and its relevance to the continuation of a race.
- Organize and catalogue existing collections used in presentations sponsored by B. R. I. G. H. T. historical organization.
- Keep presentations at an economically affordable rate.
- Annually set up exhibits at public government run buildings.
- Annually speak free of charge to children at various facilities and functions.
- Annually loan various materials to schools and other organizations
- Annually loan printed materials to teachers for use during Black History Month.
- Annually set up unattended exhibits in department stores for Black History Month.
- Provide educational assignments to teachers and other sponsors of programs, to give to individuals who will be attending a presentation activity.
Learning opens the world to minds ripe for the journey ——- Author Unknown