Taking stock of our history and future

 Edna Martin Christian Center students and staff attending the Michelle Obama Conversation (Front row - Jaelyn Powell, 3rd from right; Shayonna Gray, 2nd from right)

Edna Martin Christian Center students and staff attending the Michelle Obama Conversation (Front row - Jaelyn Powell, 3rd from right; Shayonna Gray, 2nd from right)

Black history is evolving.

In these ever turbulent times, it remains a struggle to reflect on the impact of Black culture’s relevance and significance to the American tapestry. Still, the beauty of our collective diversity finds a way to inspire.

Such was the case for me this particular Black History Month. At a time when we mourn our children’s prospects due to the ravages of violence and inequality, we are reminded our youth will find ways to understand their history, and likewise understand the roles they must play in shaping our futures.

Take the past week for example. The Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC) was blessed to expose many of our K-12 youth to the best we have to offer through city and community events. Young ladies, both students, and student employees gained perspective through an evening with former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, who only a day earlier remade national culture with the unveiling of her portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. Our promising Black History Makers shared their experiences in the reports below. 

 Hill Harper with EMCC Youth

Hill Harper with EMCC Youth

Many of our young men gleaned knowledge from Hill Harper, a former Harvard schoolmate of former President Obama, and an entertainment icon of significance in his own right. Anyone else notice that President Obama, barely a year removed from office, was ranked 8th in the 2018 Presidents and Executive Politics Greatness survey, a far cry from the current white house occupant? Thanks, President Obama…

 EMCC Youth at Frederick Douglass Celebration

EMCC Youth at Frederick Douglass Celebration

We closed the week paying due deference and homage to Frederick Douglass, who reminded us that there is no progress without struggle. The recently rechristened Frederick Douglass Park welcomed our students to a 200th birthday celebration, reminding all those in attendance the historical significance of a site that has seen the likes of Joe Louis and Tiger Woods. At the same time, our students learned about an icon whose focus on the value of a quality equation demonstrated its potential in times for which we cannot fathom.

Such events during any time are significant alone, but to do so during the weekend of a record-setting cultural celebration with the release of Marvel’s Black Panther made our week, and our month, one for the ages.

Coupled with the visuals this month of our entertainers, athletes, artists, and icons fierce and relentless voices against discrimination, our students are learning to channel their observations in a manner that will help them fix all that mine and prior generations have failed to correct.

This February, during this time of unease and uncertainty, these kids reminded me that through our history we have and will overcome times that appear too daunting. Even when we, as parents, have to prepare for the notion our children are doing emergency drills for potential mass shootings, we should be inspired that our children have the capacity to ensure their children are not subjected to the same.

As we close this month, take a moment to appreciate that all is far from lost. That our young Black History makers of tomorrow still need us to prepare them for the challenges they will face. And appreciate that they will take us to that mountaintop should we succeed.

Michello Obama Experience

Jaelyn Powell, Heritage Christian High School Senior, EMCC Youth Program Assistant

On February 13th, I got the opportunity to see our former first lady Michelle Obama. It was an amazing experience just being able to go and hear her. She spoke on many things that I could relate to and take with me when I go off to college. Some of the points she said were mainly pointed towards young ladies of color, but everything she said was encouraging and inspiring. One of her points was about women believing in themselves and how it was an internal work that women have to do to get the point where we feel like we deserve equal pay. Another one of her point on being a good human was to assume the best in your neighbors, not the worst and act with decency and with some compassion and with an open heart and nobody can take that away from you. This is something that I can apply to my life and my future college life is to start everyone at 100 percent and let that individual degrade or keep their 100 because of their character. Of course, she spoke about her fashion and how she became a ‘fashion icon’. Michelle Obama said that this was not intentional, but she just dresses appropriately just depending on where she is going and she just approached clothes the way most women do; she wanted to look cute. Last point I personally thought that will help me the most was the advice about racism and being a person of color. Right now, my friends and I are dealing with racism at school and Michelle Obama gave a few pointers on how to deal with it. She basically said that when other people doubt, you have to practice achieving through people's low expectations of you. We have to prove to them that we are no different and that we may even be smarter than them. This was an amazing experience for me and something I will cherish forever. I learned so much that can help me today and in the future.

Shayonna Gray, EMCC Youth Program Assistant

One of my goals has always been to see Michelle Obama in person. Being able to see her live was more than amazing to me! Michelle Obama is very inspiring and she is someone that people look up to including myself. With me being 21 and sometimes feeling like I'm not doing things right, or I'm failing, or I will never make it, hearing Michelle Obama was perfect and it was what I needed. I feel like that was the perfect event for all high school and even middle school girls. Black girls growing up have so much pressure on them and are expected to do so much at times; it is overwhelming. Hearing a powerful woman like Michelle Obama may have put some encouragement into some of those girls; it put some encouragement into me! I liked everything about the event. I liked how she talked about her childhood and growing up. She also talked about her degrees and the areas she has studied and worked in. Most of all, I liked how she talked about being First Lady and living in the White House. It is very amazing to me how someone can grow and do so many things they never thought they would do. She talked about how she opened up the White House to many children who have dreamed of getting behind those doors. That is amazing! I know for a fact those kids faces were priceless. I love working with kids - LOVE IT. The fact that she shows so much love to the kids makes me so happy. Overall, seeing Michelle Obama was PRICELESS and I will never forget that moment. I thank each and every one of you for the AMAZING experience.