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Youth performers honor African American inventors

Robert Ricks and MIBG
Provided by Robert Ricks
Mentors Inspiring Boys and Girls
Robert Ricks (wearing orange) with members of Mentors Inspiring Boys and Girls.

The names Sarah Boone and Lloyd Ray aren't household names — but their inventions are.

Ray is credited for a patent that improved the dustpan and later inspired the design for the pooper scooper, and Boone invented the ironing board.

Mentors Inspiring Boys and Girls honors Boone, Ray and the contributions of many other African Americans inventors in their latest production, “A Day Without Black Folks and their Amazing Inventions.”

About 20 kids from the ages 5 to 15 participate in the artistic development program run by executive director Robert Ricks.

“It's really about a young lady that gets up in the morning, and tells her mother that she had a dream that there were no Black people in the world,” Ricks said. “And her mother tells her that that wasn't a dream, that was a nightmare.

“So ultimately, what the mother does was deny her access to everything that African American inventors contributed to,” Ricks said.

With issues of violence and poverty hovering over the heads of many in the African American community, Ricks said the story and performance is meant to be an inspiration for the audience and the kids he mentors.

“I tried to make them understand if their ancestors who were going through the things that they were going through, when they created these things, there is absolutely no reason why they can't make a contribution, or that they can't be great and do great things," Ricks said.

In addition to the stage play, the Black History Month performance will include individual monologues, musical and step performances.

The first of two performances will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at School 54 on Otis Street. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page and at

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.