Kalamazoo opens park highlighting black inventors for youths

Posted at 6:12 AM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-30 06:12:11-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A Kalamazoo organization has opened a park devoted to historic black inventors in hopes of sparking children’s creativity.

The Northside Association for Community Development opened the pocket park in early October. It features scientific contributions by lesser-known African-American inventors, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

Mattie Jordan-Woods, executive director of the association, said it’s important for children to have visible examples of what they can achieve if they make the effort.

“The whole purpose is to inspire kids to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, but how are you going to inspire them if they don’t see things?” Jordan-Woods said. “It’s to highlight the contributions of African-Americans, but in general we don’t have things in our communities anymore that inspire kids.”

Kalamazoo artist James Palmore built four mixed-media displays that highlight the work of Henry Blair, Garrett Morgan, Augustus Jackson and Lonnie Johnson. Palmore’s work was featured in Grand Rapids at the “Unapologetic” exhibition during ArtPrize 2017.

Blair was the second black inventor to receive a patent in the U.S. His first invention was the seed-planter.

Morgan, the son of freed slaves, was one of the first to apply for and acquire a U.S. patent for a traffic signal.

Jackson improved the method for making ice cream and created many ice cream recipes popular today.

Johnson holds more than 80 patents but is best known for creating the “Super Soaker” water gun and the “Nerf” toy gun. He is the only inventor featured who is still living.

Jordan-Woods hopes the park will become an enriching space for everyone in the community.

The organization built the park with a $20,000 neighborhood enhancement grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The Chemical Bank and Mercantile Bank donated another $5,000 in grants, while local contractors installed concrete walkways and a flower garden.

Children built flower boxes with the alphabet while working with Youth Opportunities Unlimited.