Part 1: Our New History Makers
A Personal Perspective by Jonathan Powell
Feb 08, 2017
Welcome to the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center’s commemoration of Black History Month 2017, a time for us to cry, to laugh, to praise, to relive the past and better understand that the struggle is different and challenges remain in the future.
It’s not a celebration of color, but one of culture. It’s the eradication of ignorance through education, a healthy serving of soul food for the mind.
It’s also a time to reflect on the end of a milestone period in our history: Barack Obama’s successful tenure as the 44th president of our country.
In 2008, U.S. Senator Obama of Illinois defeated U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona to become the first African American elected to the White House. The 47-year-old Democrat garnered 365 electoral votes and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote.
That in itself was a historical moment not only for African Americans, but for all people of color. It was powerful evidence of further progress in breaking down the racial divide that once separated blacks and whites, and a hopeful sign for the betterment of America.
President Obama’s election to a second term in 2012 was equally historic and contributed to an even greater sense of pride and fulfillment for all African Americans. It stirred emotions that people of color hadn’t quite felt since the days of a monumental leader from another era, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So it’s fitting that we reflect on Barack’s legacy during this year’s NTC Black History Month celebration. It consists of a four-part series of articles that begins today and continues once a week until the end of February.
We celebrate thanks to historian Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, who is considered the Father of Black History Month.
Since 1926, when Woodson launched Negro History Week, national attention has been focused not only on our accomplishments but the trials, tribulations and struggles of black people who helped build this great nation with their blood, sweat and tears.
Each year we reach back into history books to revive, revisit and educate our young people about their forefathers and sisters on the sacrifices they have made, not always by choice, and too often leading to their death. They did so in hopes that one day we would be a stronger people – black people.
As an African American man, I give thanks to the tens of thousands of African Americans before me who have allowed me to stand on their backs and shoulders, paving the way for me to live in a better place than they could ever have imagined.
But we still have work to do, and I owe it to them to continue their struggle to reach the Promised Land.
If we as African Americans have learned anything over the years, it’s that we must never forget our past and we cannot expect anyone else to accurately document our successes and the role we have played in continuing to grow our America. We are all record keepers.
The main focus of our 2017 Black History Month series is to heighten awareness of the best and brightest among today’s African American. They represent a new generation of change agents. They’re already making a difference in society, becoming trailblazers and making their own mark at an early age.
They are the Carter G. Woodson’s, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and Barack Obama’s of the future.
A great example is 21-year old Jewell Jones who made who made history in 2015 when he was elected as the youngest member ever to hold a position on the Inkster (Mich.) City Council
Or consider 12-year-old Emoni Bates, a 6-foot-6 basketball prodigy from Ann, Arbor, Mich., who’s ranked the number 1 rated seventh-grader in the nation by a top recruiting website. He tossed in and slammed down 48 points in a recent event though he sat out much of the game.
For information about how and where to celebrate Black History Month, click here.
Our series will tell the stories of these phenomenal young people who are making strides and breaking new ground in all sectors and arenas of society:
• Community Activism
• Television and Radio
• Wall Street
We also will cover Black History Month activities sponsored by public and private institutions and present videos on issues facing people of color. We will showcase new movies that educate us on historical facts hidden or never mentioned in our history books. Also look for quizzes on historical events, facts and figures related to the African American experience.
We will remember and acknowledge many notable African Americans who passed away in 2016.
Above all, the essence of Black History Month is to honor our past, but most important, it is a time to learn from it. In the words of Dr. King, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
So as a community, as people and as descendants of our ancestors, we must write our own chapter to perpetuate their legacy of sacrifice and courage to continue the story in the everlasting pages of our history.
So sit back, relax and invite your family and friends to join us on this challenging but promising journey.
Jonathan Powell has been a member of the Communications Department at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center since July 2012. He previously worked for the Wayne County (Mich.) Community College District, where he was Communications Coordinator for Public Relations and Communications Coordinator for the School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Media Communications from Webster University in Webster Groves, MO.