History.com defines Black History Month as an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history.
Recently, Lassen Community College held a seminar in celebration of Black History month, featuring speakers who recounted the achievements of many African-Americans who have been instrumental in overcoming obstacles as equal citizens in our country.
Acting LCC President Trevor Albertson, a former Air Force intelligence officer, shared that African-Americans have fought for the United States throughout its history, serving the U.S. military in every war the U.S has fought.
Albertson’s slide presentation highlighted these famous black heroes:
Crispus Attucks was an American stevedore of African and Native American descent, widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and thus the first American killed in the American Revolution.
Tuskagee Airmen, trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.
Dr. Doris “Lucki” Allen entered the intelligence field in 1963 and became the first woman graduate of the US Army Intelligence School as a Prisoner of War Interrogator.
Her medals and decorations include the following:
Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters (3rd award)
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal Good Conduct Medal with Silver Loop (6th award)
Army of Occupation Medal (Japan)
National Defense Service Medal with bronze star ( second award)
Vietnam Service Medal with two Silver Stars
Vietnam Campaign Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Korea Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Citation
Korean Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
The event was launched with a moving a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace delivered by Phil Fetterman. Fetterman also shared some of the history behind the centuries old hymn.
Versions of the circumstances inspiring this hymn vary. One account describes the Englishman suffering a severe illness onboard while another refers to his ship (The Greyhound) nearly sinking off the coast of Ireland until cargo mysteriously shifted to fill a hole in the ship’s hull due to Newton’s desperate prayer.
Another account describes the ship thrashing about resulting in shredded canvas sails and nearly an entire side of the ship in splinters after eleven days of being tossed in a North Atlantic storm. Unable to even stand, the crew tied Newton to the helm of the ship as he tried to hold its course.
What is known is that after a near death experience at sea, Englishman John Newton penned these words:
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed.”
The beloved hymn has sustained generations of believers in their darkest hour. However, Newton brought more than beautiful lyrics back from his brush with death.
Morally convicted by the Holy Spirit of his involvement in the slave trade, Newton renounced the slaving profession saying, “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”
Furthermore, Newton penned a pamphlet titled, “Thoughts upon the slave trade.” The piece was reprinted many times and sent to every member of Parliament.
His words had the desired impact, and Newton lived to see the English civil government outlaw slavery in Great Britain in 1807, before his death later that same year.
Ikela Green, a sophomore from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is studying PE at Lassen Community College with plans to become a basketball coach. She is currently a guard/forward with the Lady cougars and has been instrumental in contributing to the success of the team this year. She was also voted All-Conference 1st Team.
Green participated in the presentation with a powerful reading of her original poem titled, “What is Education?”
Guest speaker and newly appointed Dean of Education at the University of Reno and critical quantitative researcher in education equality, Donald Easton-Brooks, shared insights gleaned from his great grandmother’s existence as a slave who bore the child of her white landowner, just before the infant was cast out in the fields to die.
The grandmother’s name was Kizzie, and Easton-Brooks expressed the ways her narrative lives on through him.
Focusing on the strength necessary to overcome the difficulties life is sure to bring, he emphasized embracing the choices we make as human beings – choices Kizzie was deprived of.
He explained that existence leads up to critical moments in life which define us and should cause us to examine the following questions:
Who am I?
Where am I going?
What motivates me?
Does my purpose guide my life decisions?
Quoting Albert Einstein, Easton-Brooks reminded students “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
He suggested that opportunities can be created by being your best, doing your best, and taking chances. “Don’t get stuck in neutral. Don’t settle,” Easton-Brooks emphasized.
He also encouraged listeners to be proactive in constructing their narratives. “Create and embrace the opportunity to define your life’s purpose,” he added.
As for himself, Easton-Brooks honors Kizzie with his work as an educational advocate, his reach as a published author and his position as one of only thirty (out of three thousand) black deans at our nation’s colleges and universities. In doing so, he is building his own legacy —creating a narrative of progress and hope.