Panama City honors Black History Month in unique way

Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 8:48 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Black History Month can be celebrated in many ways, including building wax figures from scratch.

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum Traveling Exhibit is in Panama City City Hall on Thursday, February 17th through Saturday, February 19th.

“The eyes are made out of glass so they look more realistic and they’re called medical prosthetic eyes,” said Dr. Joanne Martin, co-founder and president of The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

That’s just the beginning.

“The skin tone and getting that right is essential, as is hair color,” Martin said.

She said getting any detail wrong is an injustice to the individual who changed history.

“For me, that’s necessary because I’m preserving someone’s legacy and I need to be respectful of that,” Martin said.

The museum opened its doors in 1983 but started out as a traveling exhibit in 1980.

“We would take our figures and put them in the back of my Pontiac,” Martin said.

She’s selective in how she chooses figures. This year’s wax figures include Blacks who’ve made strides in the political realm.

They include women’s rights activist Dorothy Height, American educator and Civil Rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, politician Julian Bond, former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall, and current U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

Regardless of who’s presented each year, teaching the youth about the role black figures played throughout history is important.

“We as older folks don’t have much more time to live and we need someone to pass the baton to,” said community development director Michael Johnson. “So I think if younger individuals became interested not only in just political figures but in Black history altogether, they will continue it on.”

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