Hatteberg's People - Making Dreams Come True: Prisca Barnes

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, as the nation observes the Martin Luther King Holiday, there is a historic church that can be easily overlooked. The church is now the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita.

Surrounded by larger structures of concrete and steel, the museum gives voice to Wichita's black history. It's sometimes overshadowed by more popular venues but Executive Director Prisca Barnes is trying to change that.

"The mission of the museum is to educate about the past and inspire hope for the future. The community doesn't understand, or doesn't know, what kind of a jewel (we are). We are a hidden treasure," said Barnes.

On this holiday, the Wichita African American Museum is remembering Dr. King and his work.

"We have the opportunity to share stories of the past, not just to harp on negativity, but to help us look forward to the future," said Barnes.

Teaching and outreach programs also a part of the Museums' work. Barnes often reads to school groups. Recently, she visited the Shirley Mayes Head-Start program in South Wichita.

"Looking at those little kids... they are the hope for the future," said Barnes. "If they can remember just one thing, that may spark more questions."

This year, the museum will begin a fundraising project for moving the African American Museum to a site along the Arkansas River. The current museum's basement contains thousands of pieces of local black history. While the displays are a key part, even more important is the groundwork the museum continues to lay in fostering understanding attitudes between the races.

"It sounds so easy, just come together, love each other," said Barnes. "We have got a long way to go."

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