CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Central Texas College hosted an event last Thursday evening in commemoration of Black History month with the theme: “The African-American Experience: Building a Bridge from Our Past to Our Future”.
Leonard Moore, history professor at the University of Texas in Austin, was the keynote speaker at the Center for African-American Studies & Research Lecture Series held at the Central Texas College Anderson Campus Center.
A panel held before the lecture consisted of Tracey Calloway, Tommie Harris and Rev. Roscoe Harrison. Calloway, who a certified senior HR consultant in Travis County, product manager consultant and real estate investor, gave advice on finding professional success.
“I have multiple income streams and I work because I want to work and I enjoy my job,” Calloway said, to applause.
Her tips for finding success were “do you, educate yourself and manage your resources.” People need to be in control of themselves and how they are perceived, Calloway said. She also encouraged people to ask questions. Everything is possible with God and Google, she said. Finally, the three resources she mentioned were time, money and people.
Calloway was asked about the biggest challenges she faced. Financial difficulty while attending college plus being one of the only African-American students on campus were her two biggest challenges, she said. She needed to get the sense that she belonged and that she was supposed to be at college, she said.
Harris, a retired professional football player who attended Ellison High School in Killeen and Oklahoma University, shared advice on how to move forward in the face of struggle. Harris was a first-round draft pick for the 2004 NFL season; a Lombardi award winner; the first to make $10 million per season and the first highest-paid defensive lineman to ever be in the NFL.
He said he struggled with being satisfied despite all his success. He ended up having two children and marrying his wife. He said he thought he had his life figured out. He later realized that “your job is to be grateful where you’re at,” he said. His wife died 41 days after their wedding, and her death taught him how much he had taken breathing for granted, Harris said. He encouraged the crowd to “keep climbing the mountain” to succeed despite any adversity they may face.
Rev. Harrison was then introduced by the master of ceremonies, Aya Eneli, as the director of community affairs at Baylor Scott & White, host of the KNCT PBS program “Focus”, the first black TV news anchor for KCEN TV in 1970, the first black radio announcer at KTEN Radio in 1960, and the first black reporter for Temple Daily Telegram. He was also the first black reporter at the San Antonio Express News.
“When they’re the first of anything, you understand they had to bulldoze through not just walls, but mountains,” Eneli said after listing his career path.
Harrison shared what it was like growing up in Belton during the pre-Civil Rights era, where there was segregation and African-Americans weren’t even allowed in the city park.
“I truly believe we can do all things through Christ,” Harrison said. “He gives us strength despite social adversity.”
Harrison ended up working at Jet Magazine and, at 23 years old, met Martin Luther King Jr. through his boss, Bob Johnson, the executive editor of Jet. A month later, King was assassinated and Harrison and his team covered King’s funeral, for which they won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage.
Harrison shared examples of when he was refused entry to events he was assigned to cover by the paper because of his skin color. He encouraged the students in the audience to help others and get involved in their communities.
“No one can compel change without putting their heart into it,” Harrison said.
Leonard Moore began his talk by sharing that the most important part of his bio was that he’s been married for 15 years and has three kids.
Moore is the author of “Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina” and “Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power.” He teaches courses in African-American history- the Black Power Era, History of Black Nationalism and the history of the Hip Hop Generation at the University of Texas. He earned a doctorate in history from Ohio State University in 1998. He earned the 2004 National Urban League Whitney M. Young Award for Leadership in Education and was a 2002 winner for the NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction book.
He mentioned that after President Trump was elected, there were people in mourning. Black people are used to this feeling, he said.
“I had to tell my students that, if you understand African-American history, you understand that during the Jim Crow period, which was marked by lynchings, disenfranchisement, sharecropping, convict leasing and general humiliation, that’s when we as black folks were at our best,” Moore said. “We typically are at our best when we understand that the government is not going to look out for us.”
He mentioned the creation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), NAACP and African-American newspapers among other organizations during the Jim Crow period.
“This is critical because these weren’t extraordinary people,” Moore said. “They were ordinary people just like us but motivated to make an impact.”
Moore also encouraged African-American students to develop a thicker skin and pick and choose what they would be willing to protest over. There have been numerous times where he was mistaken for an athlete or a coach when he was in casual clothes or in a meeting, he said. He said he developed a thick skin and focuses on moving forward and not focusing on the assumption that he must be an athlete because he is black and on a college campus.
He went on to talk about students choosing their majors for reasons other than because they want to do what they love. People choose their majors for parental reasons, for the sexiness factor or because someone told them they wouldn’t be able to make money doing it, he said.
“The danger for us is that too often we are choosing a vocation and now you are competing in that field with people who were born to do that,” Moore said.
Moore shared his journey of setting up study abroad programs for his students- starting with China. Moore said he would wake up every morning and ask himself how he could level the playing field for the black students who come to UT.
“What if I took these kids with all these street smarts, combined it with book smarts and packaged it with some global internships?” Moore said. He’s now taken students to all of the continents but Antarctica and Australia.
Moore also encouraged students to surround themselves with a “dream team” of “folks who are going somewhere.” Each student needs to find their passion and do what they love but also have the desire to make an impact, Moore said.
The lecture series is one of several efforts the Center for African-American Studies and Research has done to gather and share resources about the contributions of African-Americans and provide it to the Central Texas community, according to the founder and committee chairman Horace Grace.
The Center also has a $40,000 endowment fund for scholarships for African-American studies and donated $8,000 worth of African-American history books to the Oveta Culp Hobby Memorial Library at CTC. The center also presents the program “Focus” on KNCT PBS the fourth Friday and Sunday of each month.
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