Story at a glance

  • A New York City nonprofit is launching an app that uses augmented reality to put statues in the real world.
  • The app is targeted towards middle school educators and students across the country.
  • It also comes with an open call to other artists, activists and educators to revolutionize the way Black history is taught in America.

It’s a lot easier to bring down a statue than it is to put one up. But the Movers and Shakers of NYC found a way to cut through some of the red tape using a piece of technology most Americans have in their pockets. 

Using augmented reality, a new app allows students, teachers and the general public to learn Black history and pay tribute to the people who are often left out of textbooks. In addition to a catalog of monuments to women, people of color and the LGBT community, the Kinfolk app contains a digital archive of Black, Indigenous and Latin history.

“We wanted to make sure that we could make something that people, whether they’re in underserved communities or higher income, can access,” said Glenn Cantave, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Movers and Shakers. Using smartphone technology, he said, “we could make hundreds of monuments for the cost of what one monument could be and put them anywhere in any size with or without permission.”


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In 2017, Cantave ran the NYC Marathon in chains in response to the Unite the Right rally, which he protested at. That same year, he founded the nonprofit along with CCO Idris Brewster and COO Micah Milner to challenge “the inequitable distribution of monuments” in New York City. At the time there were 155 statues of men, six of women, 19 of BIPOC people and 23 of animals, according to the nonprofit. 

The collective of artists and activists has used similar technology to highlight Black women singers, produce a pop up slave auction performance piece, provide supplemental educational materials for students and support their local community. In the last year, however, the movement has taken off in new ways, said Cantave.  

“2020 has really been the beginning of a new civil rights movement and what many people don't realize is that the civil rights movement was a process that happened over a decade,” he said. “And I think this is just the beginning.”


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Their “north star” has been the children they’ve worked with, testing the app ahead of its launch on Feb. 17, who have grown up in the digital age and found new ways to use the technology.

The app, which will be available on both iOS and Android for free, is designed for educators, specifically middle school teachers, to use in English and history classes. The monuments are an “entry point” to the larger archive of primary and secondary source documents.

“This is the beginning of a movement. The real problem we’re trying to address here is how Black and brown history is addressed in our public spaces and public archives,” said Cantave. 

They still have a ways to go and the decentralized nature of public school standards poses a challenge, but the team is hoping to get some help, extending an open invitation to artists, archivists, historians, educators and techies to help build out the app.  

“We know that we don't have the answers to everything and so the way that we’re looking to capture this nuance that is involved in telling history is to make sure our launch is a call to action for all communities,” said Cantave.


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Published on Jan 29, 2021