AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — A group of students in the Akron area with the LeBron James Family Foundation’s 330 Ambassadors are walking the paths of escaped slaves on their journey to freedom to honor Black History Month.
“I live somewhere historic where history was made and is still being made today,” said Nya Booker, a senior at Firestone High School, of the pride she feels in her community.
“We researched different Underground Railroad spots here in Akron,” she said of the project.
Through Northeast Ohio-based app outRise, she and about a dozen other students curated seven sites in Summit and Stark counties.
“It’s instinctive for most people to want to go out and explore the world, and that’s what we want to help with and part of that is for educating and impact,” said Greg Clement, the app’s co-founder.
At each location, the students wrote a description with interesting facts to help people learn along the route.
One is the John Brown House in Akron. Now owned by the Summit County Historical Society, it was once home to the famous abolitionist who led the raid on Harpers Ferry in an attempt to destroy the institution on slavery.
“The children need to know that there was an individual in history that live here in this community that felt so strongly that all people are equal that he was willing to die for them,” said Leianne Neff Heppner, the historical society’s president and CEO.
While closed because of COVID-19, she encourages people to safely walk the grounds and peek in the windows.
“I think these apps are actually expanding our reach and also allowing people to experience history that makes it more personal to them.”
The students also felt it important to link the past with the present and feature black-owned businesses on their tour like the Beanhead Brothers in Akron.
“It’s nice for us to actually have our own business and give back to the community, job placement, employment and up here at Romig Road. There’s actually a lot black businesses,” said co-owner Derek ‘Tricky’ Fromby.
Whether it’s learning about the past or embracing the present, these students said they hope that others will explore their route throughout the year.
“Think it’s super duper important to not just celebrate Black History month in Black History Month, but to also highlight that throughout the different months of the year,” Brooker said.
outRise said it hopes more people will curate experiences and tours around black-owned businesses, celebrations, and education. The students, who mentor kids in the iPromise School saod they are excited to share this project with them once they can safely do so.