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Entertainment News Written by  Claude Mills Sunday, 26 February 2012 04:39 font size decrease font size increase font size 0
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THE ALMANAC, traffic signals. A light bulb better than the one produced by Thomas Edison. Perishable food items trucked over long distances without spoiling. Chances are, you don't know this, but all these were invented by black people.


Information about black inventors and their work is not often well publicised but there are countless inventions by people of African descent. Bet you didn't know, for example, that every time you unfold your ironing board to get the creases out of your wrinkled clothes that you should thank a black woman -- Sarah Boone. The man who invented the first automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks, eliminating the problem of food spoilage was Frederick Jones, a black man. Another black man, Lewis Lattimer, improved on Edison's invention of the light bulb.

"Black inventors and their inventions have played a major role in society as we know it today, but not many people seem to know what they have done," says Benjamin Robertson, head of Negus Promotions Inc.

Mr. Robertson is spearheading a project through which black inventors in the African Diaspora can begin to receive some recognition for their innovations and contributions to the world. He plans to distribute some 1,000 shirts with the names, dates and inventions of dozens of black inventors to schools and companies in the Caribbean.

"I've been doing research since 1995 on black inventors. Raising self-awareness, self-esteem, and knowledge of black people is my main field of interest," he said.

"This shirt is a project I want to launch to see if it would give motivation to others if they could see the contribution that black people have made to society as inventors. So we decided to target Black History Month as significant way to launch the project," Mr. Robertson added.

However, the schools, especially those in the Corporate Area, don't seem keen about the idea. He's not disheartened though and since the schools won't listen, Mr. Robertson has turned his attention to companies to drum up support for what he feels is a worthwhile idea.

"Our target is 100 companies, a number of private companies have come on board, and we are targeting large companies that endorse festivals or social missions of this kind. The target is to sell 10 shirts at 100 companies, so that I can recoup the company's investment thus far," he said.

"Companies can use them as souvenirs to disseminate to worthy persons within the organisation for on-the-job recognition," Mr. Robertson added.

One of those companies, Docutech, has been very supportive so far.

"This is a great idea which help to enlighten young people, and widen their knowledge base, and hopefully, help to reconnect them to their roots, ancestors and the historical achievements of people of colour," Gary Lee Singh, one of the heads of Docutech, said.

At least 25 per cent of the proceeds from the sales of the t-shirts will be funnelled towards the Fulbright and Hubert Humphrey Scholarship funds.

Still, the urgent question remains: Why aren't young people taught much about the accomplishments of black people other than during Black History Month?

"There is a lot of material on the accomplishments of black people and inventors out there than we know about. The books come out and they tend to be forgotten in libraries," says Cecil Gutzmore, lecturer of the University of the West Indies, Mona. "The young people don't go to the libraries because they are in a system that emphasises something else, so they don't get the chance to know and research things about notable persons of African descent.

"During Black History Month in the US and Jamaica, a few names are mentioned, however, there is no systematic focus on blacks, and the importance of what they have done in neither the UK nor the US in the educational system. One has to seek that knowledge on one's own time," he said.

"There is a thing called black community education in the UK where Saturday school is used as a vehicle to push black information, and knowledge about the black community. Maybe we need more of that here," Mr. Gutzmore said.

Read 2409 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 February 2012 11:23

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