Real and inclusive histories engage, educate and empower all

With recent attempts to minimize, whitewash, sugarcoat hard history in different parts of the nation, it’s important to look at ways and means we can learn and grow more as schools and communities by recording and telling our rich array of true and inclusive histories.

We can take meaningful steps in our neck of the woods to ensure current and future generations are immersed in real, inclusive histories — real histories that complement the hard work of our educators; real histories that intrigue, engage and stick with our students; hard histories that enlighten and yield empathy; and extraordinary biographies that inspire courage.

Consider Keystones Oral Histories (KOH), a non-profit established to honor under-represented racial, ethnic and cultural communities while educating our children and the public on the deep, broad achievements of Black, Brown and diverse forebears.Under-represented ethnic and cultural American communities have made extraordinary contributions to the history of south-central Pennsylvania and the United States.

As with many aspects of these communities in American society, their influence is understated, sometimes buried, and relatively unknown to our region’s communities and students as traditional textbooks, materials and curricula often leave out these important stories.

Bryan Wade

From military service to ultimate sacrifices; athletics to education; public service to medical achievements; and religious to thought leadership, these communities’ true histories deserve to be celebrated and yearn to be shared to today’s and tomorrow’s generations.To date, with the support of York College of Pennsylvania and our visionary, committed Board of Directors, three documentaries with companion K-12 curricula and living history programs have been developed to capture, celebrate, and pass on the legacy of African Americans in south central Pennsylvania.

They include:African Americans from Dauphin County who served in the military from World War II to Vietnam.

African Americans from York County who served in the military from the Civil War to and beyond Vietnam.A history of the underground railroad and Abolitionists throughout south central Pennsylvania.

In 2020, Public Broadcasting System member station WITF in Central Pennsylvania aired the first Keystones Oral Histories documentary.

Matthew Jackson

By 2022, this signature Keystones Oral Histories documentary was picked up by PBS member stations KQED San Francisco California and the Bay Area, PBS North Carolina, WHYY in the Philadelphia/Delaware region, and WTTW Chicago, Illinois.

We hope this is just the beginning as Keystones Oral Histories, with its trustworthy credibility and network of historians and scholars, is poised to produce multiple documentaries with companion K-12 curricula focusing on African American, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, Jewish, and LBGTQIA+ communities in military service, business, education, medicine, religion, athletics, politics and public service.

As Keystones Oral Histories prepares the next phase of programing, the organization seeks investment through sponsorship partnerships with our region’s businesses, foundations and individual contributors. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out.

Outside of the financial tax deduction and multiple forms of public recognition, the returns on investment are significant: Honoring the underrepresented, educating our youth and public on diverse achievements, and nurturing courageous conversations lead to strengthening and mending our social fabric.

Keystones looks forward to exploring, lovingly capturing, and telling these stories over the next two-to-three years. To learn more, please check out the Keystones website:

And if your organization, civic group, school board, classroom, commission or civic group would like to host a Keystones Oral Histories presentation, please reach out. We exist to serve, educate, enlighten and empower.

Bryan Wade is founder and executive director of Keystones Oral Histories. Community development consultant Matthew Jackson is managing editor of the Facebook advocacy site The Valley: Building Community in the Susquehanna Valley and Chesapeake Bay.

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