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fred rogers institute

Mister Rogers conference provides novel platform for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Educate a Child initiative

Growing up in northern New Jersey, a younger version of the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson watched in awe as Fred Rogers welcomed a break-dancer onto the groundbreaking television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in the 1980s. Breakdancing was considered scary or threatening to some in mainstream culture at the time, but Rogers warmly greeted the dancer, a Black youth with a boombox and a cardboard mat, and encouraged him to show off his skills to viewers. The cardigan-clad host even tried a few of the moves himself. “This was really revelatory for me because it was about appreciating the art” but also about “accepting young, Black children” as a part of the neighborhood, said Johnson, who serves as convener of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Educate a Child, Transform the World roundtable. “There’s something really theologically powerful, something socially powerful about this episode for me.”