What were some of the contributions of black Americans in the military throughout history?
Elgin area residents can find out first hand from former Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of black World War II combat pilots, and other African American military veterans who will be special guests at the Ninth Annual Black History Family Festival on Saturday at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.
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The festival, dubbed "Honoring Our Heroes: Contributions of African American Veterans," will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at the library's main branch, 270 N. Grove Ave.
"It's a wonderful event," said Miriam Lytle, library division chief of community service and program development. "We've had more than 4,000 people some years, and other years when the weather has been daunting, we've had 2,000. It's always very warm inside."
A meet and greet with Tuskegee Airmen will be held in the library's River Room following a recognition ceremony for all African American veterans from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m.
Highlights of the day include recognition of African American veterans, meeting future African American leaders, storyteller Linda Gorham reading "I Am An American," a performance by the South Shore Drill Team, culinary treats, and children's arts and crafts.
The library is partnering with Elgin Area School District U-46, the city of Elgin, Elgin Community College, and Sam's Club to host the event. Sam's Club will provide long-stem yellow roses and an American Flag pin to each veteran, and cookies for the event, Lytle said.
The festival was founded years ago by Dr. Phyllis Folarin, a retired principal of Harriet Gifford Elementary School in Elgin.
"She really felt the need to have something for families stressing literacy and making these strong connections with black history," Lytle said. "Every year we have a different theme. This year, honoring our veterans was a ripple effect of The Big Read."
The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, supported a reading project at the library from Sept. 1 through Nov. 11. The library organized speakers, book discussion groups, exhibits and film screenings related to the book "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien about the Vietnam War.
During Saturday's festival, artists, authors, vendors and community organizations will have information booths at the library. There also will be a film screening from 1 to 5 p.m. of "For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots."
For a complete schedule of events, visit gailborden.info.