FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Winston Pearson Jr. wears many hats. He’s a father and loving husband, the pastor at The Church of Jesus in Fort Wayne, a talented musician, and a ventriloquist.

Unlike the others on that list, he’s only been doing ventriloquism for a few years. He picked up a puppet and perfected the skill during the COVID lockdown in 2020.

“I was at home like everybody else and the Lord spoke to me and He said ‘don’t come out of this season empty handed,’” said Pearson.

Years later, Pearson has amassed 16 puppets, each with their own names, stories and personalities.

Once a month, Pearson packs up one of his puppets and visits the students at MLK Montessori School on Fort Wayne’s south side. Together they teach the students how to deal with emotions like depression and anxiety, and the importance of respecting teachers.

“I come in here and help teach the children, help build their self-esteem, teach them how to channel their emotions in a positive manner, and just have fun with them.”

He also uses the puppets to teach lessons in Black history.

In early February during Black History Month, Pearson’s lesson centered around Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks. Pearson and his puppet Prophet Samuel, who Pearson often referred to as “dad,” read a Rosa Parks book to several classes, sang inspiring songs, and discussed with the students the difference between right and wrong, inclusion, and being strong.

Winston Pearson Jr. and Prophet Samuel at MLK Montessori in Fort Wayne

“What the Lord has put in my heart to tell these children is how to stand up for what is right. Do not bend for anything. It’s okay to live your life with courage and boldness and lead your life with love,” he said. “Black History Month is a month that you can reflect back on what people who look like you went through and how they didn’t settle for less. A lot of time we look at our situation and say ‘I got this bad situation so I’m stuck here.’ No, great things come from tragedy, beautiful things come from situations where you thought you would fail in.”

MLK Montessori Principal Greta McKinney says at her school, Black history is celebrated every day. That’s done through school-wide activities like ice cream parties to celebrate and learn about the inventor of the ice cream scoop, a Black man named Alfred Cralle, and super-soaker parties to learn about the inventor of the best-selling toy, a Black man named Lonnie Johnson.

Another way they celebrate Black history is by welcoming Pearson into the classrooms.

“Introducing our children to history via a puppeteer just made sense to me,” McKinney said. “Children have an innate desire to learn, as educators, our role is to nurture that innate desire and give them experiences no matter what the format is so it’s a positive experience for them and Winston afforded us to do that.”

Pearson hopes by tapping into the students’ imaginations through his shows, he can unleash greatness in their minds and set them up for a beautiful and inspiring life.

“They’re like little pieces of soil that you can plant seeds in and while I’m doing a show I’m always thinking about their future. So what I tell them today will affect them tomorrow,” he said.

Pearson’s ventriloquism lessons don’t stop at the schools, either. He also takes his puppet ministry into prisons where he uses ventriloquism to connect with inmates and teach them about readjusting to life outside the prison walls.