While many spent Super Bowl Sunday crowded around televisions with pizzas and beers, nearly 70 community members poured into Christian Love Missionary Baptist Church to celebrate Black History Month by commemorating some unsung black heroes.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis together with the Sankofa Safe Child Initiative honored 16 community leaders who’ve had a positive impact. The celebration was one of 10 Black History Month events Davis has planned for the month of February.
“Part of the reason that we do this is to help people know that oftentimes we are in the company of giants who think they are midgets,” Davis said.
Pastor Steve Nelson hosted the event, which included gospel music, prayer and live performances by the Celestial Ministries Drum Line, songstress Black Heaven and spoken word artist Diana Tyler, know by her stage name Goddess Warrior.
As much as it was a night of celebration, it was also a night of historical remembrance – and a call to action for the community. The main directive: The community must get more involved in the future of black children.
Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project and one of the night’s award recipients, expressed his concern over the staggering low 7 percent of black boys who read proficiently in Chicago. He urged audience members to take action to correct the problem.
“It is your job to educate black children,” Jackson said. “That job does not belong to the Chicago Public Schools.”
Barbara Cole, another award recipient, also emphasized the importance of supporting black youth.
“My purpose in life really is to be a part of the solution,” Cole said. “I get up every day and I say, ‘We can’t complain about these young people if, in fact, we don’t get out here and try to help them be the best that they can be.’”
Gus Rickette, owner of Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken, along with his daughter president and CEO Charmaine Rickette also were honored. They spoke on empowering the black community by supporting black-owned businesses.
“We are in a state of emergency for our culture — for our people,” the younger Rickette said. “I am proud to be black, and I want our dollar to be more powerful.”
Congressman Davis also commented on his own journey, reflecting on the accomplishments black people have made throughout history.
“We have made enormous progress in this country,” Davis said. “Everything we started, started from nothing.”
But despite the progress black people have made, there are those who feel Black History Month is unnecessary.
“Now is the time for us,” Staurou said. “We are coming out and we should celebrate ourselves.”
In his closing remarks at Sunday’s event, Davis outlined the long history of black people in America, a history filled with dehumanizations and oppression, but also triumph and accomplishment. After the ceremony, he, like Staurou, shared the importance of keeping Black History Month alive.
“There is nothing wrong with the celebration of ethnic and or racial origin — ethnic and or racial pride,” he said. “Black is beautiful.”
Here are the other leaders who were honored:
- Pastor Emeritus James Brooks Sr.
- Pastor James Brooks Jr.
- Tameeka Christian
- Iberia Hampton
- Pastor Phillip Jackson
- Jaqueline Patton
- Antoinette Ratliff
- Stanley Ratliff
- Khalid Scott
- Dennis Snipes
- Henry Taylor
- George Williams