Black History Month has always been an inspiring time and should result in action. After we’ve been reminded of the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality, and the contributions of the ancestors and those whom have gone on before, the question for each of us is, “What is your contribution for the future?”
It has been said many ways that none of us are truly free as long as there is someone left behind, uneducated, in poverty, or just denied opportunities because they are Black. One writer, in a poem to his mother, lamented with regret that, “I must confess that I still breathe while you are not yet free.” The writer is sad because he realizes that the work is not yet complete.
I suppose that is what Teddy Kennedy was talking about in his famous speech of 1980 when he said, “The work goes on. The cause endures. The hope still lives and the dream will never die.” For me it is a kind of altar call to action, as long as there is work to do, after you’ve heard the message of struggle and progress.
This month in Pasadena, some answered the call with the annual Black History Parade. Some answered the call at their churches with their annual Black History programs to honor Black achievers. Each of us answers the call whenever we mentor a young person, donate to a scholarship fund, start a new organization that deals with a persisting community problem, tutor students, or provide an opportunity to act and answer the call by sharing knowledge.
As is my usual practice, I attended the annual African American Film Festival and African Marketplace in Los Angeles. I was also invited, along with my wife, Ruthie, to participate in the Annual Black History program at Calvary C.M.E . Church in Pasadena where, in addition to being honored, we discovered a dynamite choir that must be one of Pasadena’s best kept secrets. I mean they really “SANG”, if you know what I mean. In addition to honoring my wife and I, the church honored Kent Bentley, Vice President of Nestle Corp., International; Educator Virginia Holt; and Arzella and Fred Valentine, owners of Woods Valentine Mortuary in Pasadena. The awards were accepted by third generation owners and daughters, Gail Valentine Taylor and Janice Valentine. Woods Valentine Mortuary is Pasadena’s oldest Black-owned business . The Woods Valentine story is an inspirational one of how to keep a family owned business going for well over 80 years. The Journal, by comparison is family-owned, but we are only 24 years old. The struggle continues. Both businesses provide a needed service to the whole community.
I visited the California African American Museum in Los Angeles to observe its current exhibits. I also visited the Altadena Community Arts Center to view its Black History Month Exhibition. The center is located at 2460 North Lake Avenue, in Altadena. It is presently exhibiting African sculptures from WAJ Collectibles and works by Contemporary American Artists Michael Massenburg, Cedric Adams, Ben Sakoguchi, Timothy Washington, and Richard Wyatt Jr. They may be reached at 626- 797-5798.
Enjoy your Black History Month to the fullest, and then answer the call to action. Find a need and fill it. As African Americans, we are a part of Black history by the lives we live and the actions we take. Be a part of making a positive and lasting history for the generations to come. Even though we have a Black President, the prisons are too full of young Blacks, and the schools and churches are too empty of them. Our struggle continues. This is an Altar Call to action!