Bright Spot: Memphian brings African American history to life through music

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's a interactive history lesson that takes students on a journey through generations and genres of music.

"We span this history of African American music from the field song all the way through jazz, blues, rock and roll on in to hip hop."

Third and fourth graders at Hawkins Mills Elementary are not only having a great time, but they're also learning about how African Americans contributed to the music world.

"It's important that you know who you are and where you come from. It gives you some inkling as to how far you can go and achieve."

A graduate of East High School, Jonathan Blanchard started his "From History to Hip Hop" lectures to share with students what local musicians shared with him when he was a student in Memphis City Schools.

"We had opportunities to see artists come in and provide programming that enhanced our learning," he told WREG's Markova Reed.

That's what Principal Antonio Harvey is hoping for— an opportunity to add to the students' learning experience while making it fun.

"This was an opportunity for us to actually bring in a program that would reach them about history, but doing it in a way that they would actually enjoy it."

Memphis musicians help Blanchard bring the music to life for the students. From the songs of the Civil Rights Movement to the blues that made Memphis' Beale Street famous.

"I enjoy watching them be awed by the history. I enjoy watching them discover the comparison and contrast between the genres."

His goal for the students is to make them proud of African American contributions to the music they listen to everyday.

"I hope they take a sense of self and sense of ownership. A sense of ownership in culture, a sense of ownership in something they can say I've created."

And hopefully knowing what others have given, these students will be encouraged to make their own marks on the world.