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posted: 2/7/2010 12:01 AM

Gail Borden library kicks off Black History Family Festival

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  • Don Jackson of Chicago plays African music as Gail Borden Public Library kicks off the fifth annual Black History Family Festival Saturday in Elgin.

      Don Jackson of Chicago plays African music as Gail Borden Public Library kicks off the fifth annual Black History Family Festival Saturday in Elgin.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer


Nico Johnson can dance.

But when it comes to break dancing, that athletic favorite of young folks, Johnson knew he had to call in his friends to help with the event at Gail Borden Library.

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"I'm not really good at break dancing," said Johnson, who does number another type of hip hop dancing among his repertoire.

But the aspiring actor who is studying to be a paralegal at Elgin Community College has friends for whom break dancing is a passion. They include Onyx Gonzalez, 18, South Elgin; Adrian Guillen, 19, Bartlett; and Michael Cornelius, 18, Elgin.

Not only do these young men compete at jams, but after classes they regularly show youngsters at area high schools how to dance. One 15-year-old at Saturday's event credited a few of them and the dancing with luring him out of what he called a gang banger lifestyle.

Besides being good exercise, dancing and rapping "give young people of all races and ethnic groups something to do and different ways to express themselves than what's in school," said Johnson.

On the other hand, Korey Hughes, 12, of Elgin admits he can't do those cool break dance moves, but he is interested in African-American history. He reads a calendar his mother bought that delivers a fact every day.

"I want to pick up a book about African-American history," said Hughes. "Kids need to learn about this stuff, and I like it that there's not just one race here today."

Lucy Elliott, museum educator for the Elgin Area Historical Society, gave Hughes a copy of a booklet by E.C. Alft called "Elgin's Black Heritage" because the youngster had impressed her with his interest when he stopped at the society's information table.

"If we can get them to stop at the display, those from the area are thrilled to see some of these photos, and most of them are from the book," she said.

And 4-year-old Jaylen Hare of Elgin announced the freedom train was his favorite part of the day because he likes trains. He had heard about the underground railroad that took slaves to the north and freedom in a presentation from Kidworks Touring Theatre Co.

"The sooner we explain where they come from and their background the better understanding they will have of it when they are older," said his mother, Ivory Hare.

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