I’m looking at my calendar and, as normal, it’s pretty full. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and all the festivities, events and activities which accompany these special days have come and gone. Here we are in February, 2013 already. Of course, the obvious special day in February sticks out like a sore thumb —Valentine’s Day. I am very ‘special day’ driven. I must confess, I love the holidays (some more than others) and all that they bring. I love celebrating. As I look at this month of February, yes I think of Valentine’s Day and I did look forward to celebrating it. But most of all, I look forward to celebrating and honoring the rich culture of Black Americans, for February is Black History Month.
Negro History Week was started in 1926 by the diligent historian and educator, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. In 1976, Negro History Week became what we now know as Black History Month. Woodson, a son of former slaves, knew how important it was and saw the tremendous need for preserving the legacy of men and women of the Black culture no one knew of, who produced so many tremendous and substantial contributions which benefited our country and the world at large for decades and decades to come. Woodson chose the month of February in honor of the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12 and who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, bringing liberty to slaves in America, and Fredrick Douglass, one of America’s notable abolitionists, an educator, orator and author who was born on Valentine’s Day.
Black Americans have made contributions of monumental proportions to our world in every area of life. One area that stands out to me is inventions. Some of the inventions we still enjoy today, made by these little-known inventors, include the mail box, traffic light, gas mask, golf tees, the telegraph, typewriter, ironing board, lawn sprinkler, the toilet and the list goes on and on and on.
The Black community in Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, is small, but we are indeed here, alive and well! We take pride each year in bringing our community a taste of who we are. We understand and do not take for granted that we are here today because of the tremendous sacrifices of those who came before us. We believe in keeping their legacies alive, striving every day to live out our lives with pride and dignity and passing the baton to those who are right behind us.
Some of us stay connected through the Black Awareness Association, an organization founded by a group of Black men and women here in Juneau in the mid-90s who felt the need to stay in touch with each other in a place so far away from home and to keep our community aware of the many contributions of our culture.
So here we are again, ready to celebrate, and we are excited to do so. We invite you to celebrate with us this month by finding a Black history fact that you may not already know about and sharing it with someone. We will all be richer because of it.
There are a couple of events happening in Juneau honoring Black History Month. Rev. Bobby Lewis and pianist Eustace Johnson have returned to Juneau, by popular demand, to conduct another exhilarating and uplifting Gospel Music Workshop Feb. 18-23, culminating with two sold-out concerts on Sunday Feb 24. If you missed it last year, you may still get a second chance to hear this incredible choir, which consists of locals who just love to sing.
Another way of celebrating with us is by joining us on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Tlingit & Haida Community Center on Hospital Drive for an evening of mouthwatering, authentic, traditional Soul Food. The menu includes BBQ ribs, fried catfish, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, black eyed peas, greens and cornbread, sweet potatoes, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. Doesn’t that sound awesome? The proceeds from this annual fundraiser go toward scholarships for graduating high school students who desire to pursue higher education and also to help in our efforts of bringing our community these and other similar cultural events. During this event, we will be honoring the legacy of Rosa Parks, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday this month.
• Sherry Patterson is a 27-year resident of Juneau, the Black Awareness Association President, a local vocalist, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters volunteer, and attends Breakthrough Church and is a supervisor for the CBJ Dept. of Finance.