California teen hoping to put Baton Rouge history in the national spotlight
BATON ROUGE - Thiana Aklikokou is the California winner of the National History Day contest, and although she lives on the west coast, her focus for her project was the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953.
“I wasn't surprised that people in California don't know, but I came to Baton Rouge and people still don't know what I'm talking about,” said Thiana Aklikokou.
Thiana feels that the historic boycott in the capital city is often overlooked compared to other similar demonstrations of the time.
“I found it interesting that no one talked about it at all. It was always Montgomery this,” said Aklikokou. “The Montgomery bus boycott made all these moves, but no one talked about what Baton Rouge did, which was set it up for Montgomery."
Aklikokou even visited the old McKinley High School where Reverend T.J. Jemison helped to organize people's efforts for what would later be known as the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953.
Thiana was one of nearly 1,500 contest entries, but her firsthand accounts from people like Johnnie Jones, attorney for the boycott, took her essay to the national level. Her efforts are teaching people about the historic events in Baton Rouge.
“The fact that this Baton Rouge bus boycott inspired Dr. King and gave him the blueprint, and inspired the NAACP and Rosa Parks,” said her teacher, Aurelio Cortez. “I think it's a testament to what happened here back in 1953."
For the 14-year-old who is plugged into history, simply being here is more than she could have expected.
“I'm here. I got to see where they were waiting for the taxis I got to see where they met,” said Aklikokou. “I got to be at this place where they met. It's just surreal because its a really cool place."