Black history program inspires

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, February 21, 2018

“I need you

You need me

We’re all part of God’s family”

Participants in the Central High Museum-sponsored Black History Month program Saturday at Randolph-Henry High School spoke aloud the lyrics listed above with keynote speaker Dr. Kitty Smith.

The lyrics reflected the program’s theme of celebrating African-American people, both locally and nationally, and coming together to recognize resilience shown by people of color and to understand the importance of unity. The program focused on what still needs to be done to achieve equality and representation in public office.

The program included selections by Blessed Few, a memorial prayer and candle lighting for community members who have passed away and readings about notable African-American people by Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) students Randi Steen, Aylunnah Elam, Jasmine Jackson, Maya Scott and Shannel Steen.

CCPS Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard spoke during the event, in addition to Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Cullen/Red House Representative Nancy Carwile and School Board Representative Royal Freeman.

Retired Principal George Smith was the master of ceremonies during the event.

Dr. Hezteine Foster, president of Central High Museum, encouraged members of the community to become proactive in seeking change and making a difference. She noted the importance of having representation of African-Americans on the local government level.

“We need to vote in the 2018 election. We need to run for office. We need to attend our local school board and our board of supervisors meetings,” Foster said.

Foster cited Carter G. Woodson, of Buckingham, who is recognized as the Father of Black History and began Black History Week in 1926, which later became Black History Month under President Gerald Ford.

Citing incidents of racially-motivated violence in Charlottesville and Ferguson, Missouri, Foster said important discussions need to be held and actions need to be taken about race in the U.S.

“We need a serious conversation about race relations,” Foster said. “If we don’t watch ourselves, brothers and sisters, we will go backwards.”

Foster said though there are no longer racially-segregated signs, she said racism is still present and something the country needs to fight against.

“We must let America know and never forget the struggles and the achievements of black Americans,” Foster said.

Smith spoke about her experience as the first African-American woman in several government organizations.

She noted that she received support from people of different racial backgrounds and spoke about unity as breaking through hatred and racial divide.

“If there had not been those who had wanted to work together, our country would not be what it is today,” Smith said.

Smith praised the Central High Museum for its efforts to showcase the area’s past and future.

“This museum is established so we can acknowledge and respect where we came from, but use what we went through as a stepping stone to go to the next level,” Smith said.

She noted the importance of diversity in creating opportunities in her life.

“There are so many firsts: Kitty Smith was the first National Director of Women’s Affairs with social security. Kitty Smith was the first black to receive an award at the Kennedy Center. Kitty Smith actually met with Patricia Nixon in the White House. But in every instance, it wasn’t just Kitty.”

“When we can get to the point as a nation — as a group of people — that we celebrate mankind,” Smith said, “when we celebrate brotherly love, when we can look beyond the color of a person’s skin and see the love in their heart, there is no telling what we will accomplish as a nation.”