Jalen Bailey was four years old when his mother, Dr. DeAnna Bailey, became tired of letting her son watch entertaining cartoons that lacked educational value and positive images of African-American people. Bailey, 34, remarked that educational programs on television were not captivating. With the exception of finding a few old films after searching online, Bailey’s options for something for Jalen to watch remained sparse.
“I saw that there weren’t any films that taught children about African-American people or African-American history,” Bailey said.
Dr. Bailey is a U.S. Army veteran who earned an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a Doctorate of Engineering degree from Morgan State University (MSU). Her search to educate Jalen ultimately inspired Bailey to develop an educational animated hip-hop series in which relatable characters integrated lessons about ancient Africa.
Personal investors believed in Bailey’s vision. The first DVD called “Meltrek Episode 1: Exploring Ancient Africa” was released in October of 2014. Meltrek combines a shortened version of the words “melanin” and “trek,” suggesting that viewers will take a journey to understand the history and culture of people of color.
“The storyline for the entire series involves a magical teacher, Ms. Loften who sends her sixth grade students back in time to explore different areas in African-American history,” Bailey said. “The bottom line is I got tired our children not being adequately taught their history. Instead of complaining about it, I stepped up and said, ‘Let me produce something. Let me come up with a solution.’ I found that once I released the film there were thousands of parents out there who feel the same way I feel.”
EdAnime Productions produced exploring Ancient Africa. Bailey and Luther Elliott co-founded the company along with a host of teenagers and adults from Baltimore. Bailey, Amber Lanese and Charnee Bowens serve as directors of the company. Additionally, Bailey is the CEO, Bowens is the chief education specialist and Lanese is the chief operating officer and outreach coordinator.
With the exception of animation, everything for the series is completed in-house. The cast for the series provides character voices. It is comprised of Bowens, who is the voice of Ms. Loften. Isaiah Lewis, 15, is the voice of Bunchy and Chen. He is also a co-founder of EdAnime, a financial investor and a series producer. Briana Lewis, 18, is the voice of Percy and Michelle. She is responsible for designing backgrounds for the storyboard. Destiny Parnell, 11, is the voice of Jessie. Harvey Lewis, 17, is the voice of Rameses, a co-founder, a financial investor and series producer.
Dr. Bailey said that funding the series has been an issue. She said she’s looking for an angel investor who may help cover production costs for remaining episodes. However, the development of children’s storybooks, backpacks, and sneakers is currently underway. Various eras in African-American history will highlight unsung heroes through eight DVD installments. Youth will remain involved in Meltrek.
“The kids were involved on the creative side, but (on) the business side as well,” Bailey said, noting their involvement in the copyright and trademark process.
Anna Scribner is Bailey’s mother who worked as an educator in Baltimore for 35 years, before retiring in 2009. The former teacher and principal remarked that “Exploring Ancient Africa” helps youth to build vocabulary, knowledge of regions and continents and self-esteem. A coloring and activity book and self-contained unit plan were designed to accompany the film.
“The children will know that all African-American heritage did not come from slavery itself. That once upon a time, African Americans were kings and queens and so on.”
Bailey’s godson, Isaiah became involved in the project in the eighth grade. He assisted with producing the first episode, project research, creating a storyboard, marketing and sales and other tasks. The student decided to earn money by shoveling snow and mowing lawns so that he could become an investor.
“The most rewarding part is being able to affect children around the world,” Isaiah said.
Visit www.edanimeproductions.com to learn more about Meltrek or to order “Exploring Ancient Africa” online. The DVD available at Everyone’s Place African Cultural Center located 1336 W. North Avenue in Baltimore.