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AASU presents Black History Month Program at PJC

Published or Revised March 30, 2017

AASU history program

At top left guest speaker Lance Mann, Senior Pastor from Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church, discovered after the program that someone else from New Jersey was in the audience at PJC: Dragons basketball freshman standout Darius Williams. At top right, AASU and women’s soccer team member Na’Omei Walker gave a rousing presentation in the skit, “Who Am I?” playing Oprah Winfrey. At center, right, AASU member Jontel Jones portrayed actor Morgan Freeman in a “Who Am I?” skit, and read his own poem, “Forbidden Fruit.” Bottom: members of PJC’s African American Student Union performed their Black History Month program before a packed house, involving them in a little audience participation.

February ended on a high note at Paris Junior College as the African American Student Union presented a program of poetry, song, and skits to fellow students, leading up to guest speaker Lance Mann, Senior Pastor from Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church.

After the AASU pledge and a prayer from Tynaelen Braxton, member Hannah Garrett welcomed the audience. Member Kierra Miller read the poem, “I Mean Maybe None of Us Are Actually from Anywhere” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.

Entertaining “who am I” skits were performed by Kimberly Brown as singer Ella Fitzgerald, DeMarcus Wright as athlete Jesse Owens, Na’Omei Walker as entertainer Oprah Winfrey, and Jontel Jones as actor Morgan Freeman. Jones also read his poem, “Forbidden Fruit.”

“As we gather at Paris Junior College to discuss and celebrate Black History Month,” said Mann, “I want to state a couple of issues I have with the month.”

He explained that it originated in 1926, when noted black historian Carter G. Woodson decided to celebrate Black History Week and chose a week that coincided with the February birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on the 12th and Frederick Douglas on the 14th. That lasted until 1969, when black activists at Kent State University demanded that the week be expanded to the month of February. President Gerald Ford made that declaration in 1976.

“Here’s my issue with that,” said Mann. “They picked the shortest month of the year. My second problem is that there needed to be a month to celebrate black history in the first place. Black history is not just black history, it’s American history. I agree with Morgan Freeman who said the problem is that there is a need for celebrating our contributions. As educators, pastors, activists, it is our job to make sure that the the youth of America understand that there are white contributions, and black contributions, and Hispanic contributions, that we’re all contributors to what is now known as these United States of America.”

Mann also took issue with the recent categorization of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) as forerunners or leaders of school choice in America.

“No, they’re not,” said Mann. “The need for HCBUs was because people who looked like us could not go to regular universities. It was not our choice - we had no choice. All it takes is a Google search. Know your history!

“What’s better is, when every American, of every background, of every race, of every religion, of every nationality, can determine that we all made a contribution to America; none greater than the other. If we did that, there would be no need for Black History Month. It would be American history all year long. So I leave you young people with this. Get up off of the couch and out of the dorms, register to vote, make sure your voice is heard. Get involved, get active, run for your local office, do something. You have this opportunity, don’t drop the ball. Because in the corridors of time, those people, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Charles Drew, they are standing in the corridors of history watching to see what you do with your opportunity. Will you take it and drop it, or will you stand on their shoulders to reach levels not seen before.”

Garrett then concluded the program and AASU members and the audience joined in a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

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