Gail Borden Public Library patron Diana Carson had barely started to check out the annual Black History Family Festival on Saturday in Elgin when she learned something new.
"I read about the Buffalo Soldiers; I didn't know about them," said Carson, of Elgin, referring to African-American cavalrymen who served in regiments formed beginning in 1866.
Carson's second stop was a children's crafts station, where her sons Demetrius, 6, and Darius, 9, were working on coloring drawings of traffic lights. The invention of the traffic light is credited to Garret Morgan, an African-American.
The theme of the annual festival, attended by hundreds of people and now in its seventh year, was "African American Firsts: Black Americans Who Have Shaped Our Country." It featured cultural and artistic displays, dancing, storytelling and booths staffed by various vendors and community organizations. New this year was a talk by award-winning author Candy Dawson Boyd.
Five students from Elgin Area School District U-46 received the "Future African American Leaders" award for their academic performance, community involvement and overall career goals.
The recipients were Khalil Smith of Elgin High School; Caleb Hasan of Bartlett High School; Alexander Jones of South Elgin High School; Alex Morrow of Streamwood High School; and Tadajah Coleman of Larkin High School.
Recognizing high-achieving young students is extremely important within the African-American community, said Caleb's father, Raheem Hasan, of Hanover Park.
"Quite often there is so much focus on the negative things that our kids are doing, ranging from drugs, crime and having babies," he said. "These students can be positive role models that can help have an influence on the younger kids."
Elgin resident Eric Thompson said the annual festival is a chance for his adopted 3-year-old daughter Sage to be among people who look like her. Sage was adopted from Ethiopia. "It is great that this event recognizes the community that's here," Thompson said.