MLK’s legacy for black America in 2017

— As the United States of America and the global community salutes, recognizes and commemorates the 88th birthday of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is a providential time to reassess the meaning and challenges of Dr. King’s legacy for black America in this year of profound change, anxiety and hope.

As we witness the transfer of presidential power from President Barack H. Obama to President Donald J. Trump, it is quite appropriate to apply some the long-lasting and enduring tenets of Martin Luther King’s leadership, teachings, and perspectives. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) prophetically stood strong for freedom, justice, and equality for Black Americans and for all people who cried out for a better quality of life throughout the world.

Dr. King was more than one of the greatest orators and preachers of the 20th century. He was one of the most effective intellectual theologians whose moral genius and courage helped irreversibly to change the course of American history for civil and human rights. No man or woman is perfect. Yet Dr. King’s leadership inspired and motivated millions of black Americans and others to strive toward the perfection equal justice for all through nonviolent social change and transformation.

As a young teenage staff worker for SCLC in North Carolina in the early 1960s, I witnessed firsthand how Martin Luther King, Jr. would stir the consciousness of the masses. We overcame the fear of standing up for righteousness in the presence of evil powers and unjust systems of oppression and suppression.

Legacy is about establishing in one’s life and work, that which will endure and last for generations to come. Dr. King’s life and work exemplified intellectual honesty, activism and courage. At a time when the misguided phenomena of so-called “fake news” is gaining momentum in the body politic of the nation, we all should be reminded that Dr. King would always cautioned that only “The truth will set us free.”

For this reason we are determined to maintain and to sustain the viability of the Black Press of America as the truthful, accurate and trusted voice of black America. This year marks the 190th year of the Black Press in the United States. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King and other leaders, the mainstream press would often attempt to undermine the legitimacy and purpose of the movement for change but the Black Press always chronicled the news of freedom movement with strategic visibility and editorial support.

In Dr. King’s last address in Memphis, Tennessee on the night before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he made statements that still apply and endure today in 2017. He emphasized that when society appears polarized and deeply divided, we must strive to overcome divisiveness and hopelessness.

Thus, what may appear to some to be a “dark” hour is in fact a God-given time to reassert that justice and freedom are still possible and very probable if we unify, organize, mobilize and speak truth to power. We cannot afford to engage in the cynicism that is now popular.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s living legacy beacons us to not give in to hopelessness and self-defeatism. We have had difficult times before and each generation is called to stand up with the principles, values and commitments that we have inherited from so many of our sisters and brothers who sacrificed for us to be where we are today.

While race is still a defining factor in American society, we must not allow racial discrimination or racism in any form to divide us or to prevent us from moving forward as families and communities steadfast in our unified actions to improve our quality of life. Black America will overcome. We have come too far to stand still or go backwards.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at

Port Discovery hosts ‘I Have A Dream Weekend’

— Families flocked to Port Discovery last weekend in search of a meaningful way to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many were pleasantly surprised to walk into an array of planned activities sponsored by the children’s museum to help young patrons better understand the history and culture of the times.

Tracey and Clyde Walker from Baltimore County came looking for MLK activities to engage their children Eywa, 2, and Zariah, 4.

“[We] came out to celebrate MLK Day and bring the children out to something child-friendly,” said Tracey Walker. “I was actually grateful that they had something going on. I was shocked, actually, to see that they had a list of activities all day and to open the museum on Monday when they are usually closed really stood out to us.”

Children of all ages–from Upton to as far away as Pennsylvania –walked and skipped through the halls of Port Discovery from Saturday, Jan. 14 through the official King Day celebration on Jan. 16.

“I liked making something,” Walker’s young daughter Zariah beamed as she completed her quilting square with the help of volunteers from the African American Quilters of Baltimore, one of the many partners that helped Port Discovery Staff re-created the life and times of Dr. King.

Casey and Lilyrose Emeogo join Zoey and Kyle Zylestra, and Ethan and Gavin Wang in creating birthday cards for Dr. Martin Luther King at Port Discovery's MLK celebration.

Casey and Lilyrose Emeogo join Zoey and Kyle Zylestra, and Ethan and Gavin Wang in creating birthday cards for Dr. Martin Luther King at Port Discovery’s MLK celebration.

“When we have special events like, [the] ‘I have a Dream Weekend,’ we engage community partners to come in and teach children things that they might not have been able to engage in otherwise. These are great opportunities to learn from different partners that are here in the community,” said Sarah Zimmerman, Port Discovery Outreach and Education staff.

The African American Quilters of Baltimore and the Museum of Negro Baseball Leagues Inc. are two long-time community partners that have participated in Port Discovery’s MLK activities for at least a decade.

“We’ve been doing this union between the museum and our organization for 10 years. A lot of the children come back each year,” said Paula, longtime member of the African American Quilters organization. The theme for this year’s quilt project was “Our Beloved Community.”

“We try to encourage the children to look at things in their community that are positive, inspirational and fun and put that on their quilt,” Paula said.

The weekend’s events also featured children from Northwood Elementary School posing as living historical figures in a project titled Living Museum of African-American History and arts and crafts workshops for children who wanted to create a birthday card for Dr. King.

“I’ve heard so many of the children say, ‘It’s about celebrating somebody who did so much,’” said Lisa Swayhoover, outreach education associate for Port Discovery, in describing the range of sentiments children expressed while creating their MLK cards—the one exhibition that brought children of all backgrounds together to write their reflections on Dr. King’s life.

“It’s very important to build that tolerance. I’m so happy that Port Discovery is making the effort to spend the time to celebrate [Dr. King] today and this weekend.”

Black History Calendar, Resource Guide Offers Timeless Knowledge

— You’ll never know where you’re going, unless you first know where you’ve been. So, make 2017 your year of self-pride and timeless knowledge with The Educational Network’s “Our History Today! An African-American Journey” black history calendar and resource guide. In addition to featuring hundreds of key facts highlighting the contributions and accomplishments of notable history-makers, this collector’s edition features full-page profiles of 13 prominent African-American trailblazers in politics, education, sports, business, media and film/television; as well as a farewell pictorial tribute to President Barack Obama.

The calendar, which serves as a national fundraising vehicle for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), showcases 12 such institutions and lists nearly $1 million in available scholarships. Since its inception in 2006, the calendar has raised more than $400,000 for HBCUs.

“Across the nation, there’s been a decline in high school graduation rates, especially among African-American males, which may correlate to the lack of positive, accomplished role models and knowledge of Black History,” said Tracey Alston, founder of The Educational Network. “Understanding that our youth will never know where they’re going until they first know where they’ve been, our 2017 black history calendar celebrates the amazing contributions— past and present— that our people have made to numerous industries beyond sports and music, the nation and the world.”

In conjunction with the calendar, The Educational Network has also developed an online lesson plan system for teaching Black History and Multicultural Studies to students, grades K-12. The Common Core-aligned program is currently being used by teachers in several school districts across the nation.

The “Our History,Today! An African-American Journey” calendar is available for purchase at select Walgreens stores nationwide and For more information, contact The Educational Network at 312-470-0270.

Paul Henderson: Photographing Morgan (1947-1955) exhibit at Morgan State

The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) proudly announces the opening of its popular traveling exhibition of the work of photojournalist Paul Henderson on February 2, 2016 at Morgan University’s James E. Lewis Museum of Art. This exhibit is nearly twice as large as the show currently on display at the Maryland Historical Society and is free and open to the public. It features over 30 never-before exhibited Henderson works that focus on MSU. The show runs until the end of March.

“Paul Henderson is among a handful of 20th century photojournalists that we are lucky enough to have a preserved substantial collection from,” says Maryland Historical Society President and CEO Mark B. Letzer. “We are excited to show his work at Morgan where he spent so much time plying his trade.”

Paul Henderson’s work is an invaluable visual record of both the Civil Rights movement and everyday life in Maryland. He may be best known as the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper’s first photographer, starting at the paper in 1929. From 1947 through 1955, Henderson spent a lot of time on the campus of Morgan State College (now University) before semi-retiring in 1960. Talented and prolific, he created a body of more than 7,000 images, most of them unidentified, by subject or location, by the time of his death in 1988. The Maryland Historical Society has been working for over five years to put names to people and places.

Paul Henderson: Photographing Morgan features an interactive component, as the Maryland Historical Society continues its research to identify the people and locations in Henderson’s photos. Most of the prints containing unidentified people and places are accompanied by QR codes that will connect smartphone users to an online survey where information can be submitted. Identification forms will also be available in the gallery.

Caribbean roots of black church explored

Dr. Noel Leo Erskine investigates the history of the black church in his latest book, “Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery.”

Erskine, who lives in Lithonia, is a professor of theology and ethics at the Candler School of Theology and the Laney Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Emory University.

The book, published in January, is Erskine’s sixth. “Plantation Church” explores the history of the black church as it developed both in the Caribbean and the United States after the arrival of enslaved Africans.

Erskine writes that typically when people talk about “the Black Church,” they mean African-American churches in the United States. But he points out that the majority of African slaves were brought to the Caribbean and argues it was there that the black religious experience was born.

Erskine said that the massive Afro-Caribbean population established a form of Christianity that not only preserved African gods and practices but fused them with Christian teachings, resulting in religions such as Cuba’s Santería.

He said that the black religious experience in the United States was markedly different because African-Americans were a political and cultural minority. The Plantation Church became a place of solace and resistance that provided its members with a sense of kinship, not only to each other but also to their ancestral past.

Dwight N. Hopkins, co-editor of “The Cambridge Companion to Black Theology,” said that “Plantation Church” is one of those rare scholarly corrections that offers profound wisdom for academic and popular audiences.

“How refreshing that he does so with fluid storytelling and a writing style that urges the reader to pursue each page with expectations of new knowledge,” he said.

Kamari M. Clarke, Yale University professor of anthropology and International and Area Studies, calls “Plantation Church” a “tour de force.”

“A brilliantly provocative and unprecedented book, told with both intimately personal prose and comprehensive and convincing data, with insights that will radically change the way we have conceptualized Black Atlantic religious traditions,” Clarke said.

Erskine’s other books are “Black Theology and Pedagogy,” “From Garvey to Marley: Rastafari Theology,” “King Among the Theologians,” “Decolonizing Theology: A Caribbean Perspective,” and “Black People and the Reformed Church in America.”

Courtesy of The Crossroads News

Is It Necessary To Celebrate Black History Month?

“We don’t have a White history month, so why is there a Black history month?” Those exact words rolled off the tongue of my White co-worker, who was oblivious to the fact that he was embarking upon the biggest history lesson of his life. Although his comment was offensive and a bit hurtful, it wasn’t time to take it personal. It was imperative that he being a White male working with Black children in the ghettoes of the South side of Chicago, completely understand why it’s very necessary to celebrate Black History Month. Allow me to school you like I schooled him.


US Department of Transportation

Garret A. Morgan

We don’t have a White history month, because White history is consciously and subconsciously celebrated all year long. Think about it. Everyday, the media inundates us with European images that inform us of the “true” standard of beauty. When asking the younger generation who invented the stoplight, they stare cluelessly. They haven’t been educated about how a Black man by the name of Garret A. Morgan, invented the stoplight, which totally transformed streets all across the globe. However, every year they are reminded to celebrate Christopher Columbus for his “discovery” of America. The faces of accomplished individuals in the media fail to fully represent African Americans. Of course media highlights the success of certain African Americans, but typically not mainstream media. And although I absolutely LOVE Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the African American historic experience is so much more than one man.

It saddens me to hear the younger generation equate Black History with slavery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware slavery plays a HUGE role in our history, but it’s so much more that isn’t being told. What about our royal history? Why isn’t mass media sharing the historic stories of Black kings and queens in Africa? Or the great contributions of African Americans in this country? Have we forgotten about the Harlem Renaissance Movement that’s responsible for today’s classic African American literature? The first open heart surgery was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, a Black man. Our history is rich, inspiring, and extremely vital to our future. Therefore, it needs to be shared and celebrated.


National Park Service, Department of the Interior, US Government

Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Founded by Historian Carter G. Woodson, he wanted public schools to place a huge emphasis on Black history during the second week of February. Woodson chose that week, due to the fact that it marked the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976 the U.S. government officially recognized the expansion of Negro History Week, to Black History Month. A week wasn’t sufficient enough to properly fit in the history of Blacks. And to be honest, one month isn’t enough time as well, but it’s a good starting point. It’s a great opportunity to take the family to a museum, watch a few documentaries, and truly discuss Black history in depth. However, the spirit of Black History Month shouldn’t die on February 28th. It should live all year round. To answer my White co-workers question, Black History Month should be celebrated all year, until there is no longer a need to ensure us one month. Until the true history of Black Americans is properly told in public schools. Until countries all over the entire globe recognize the beautiful struggle of Black Americans and join our celebration. Until then, this is why we celebrate Black History Month.

Do you and your family celebrate Black History Month? What are your traditions?

Why All Black People Should Visit Africa

I was 23 years old when I took my first trip to Africa, and if you ask me my trip occurred a little too late. It should have happened as soon as I developed comprehension and understanding. It should have happened before the “African booty scratcher” jokes became funny to me, and before Africa became the dark continent in my mind. However, thank goodness it happened. After visiting the beautiful country of Zambia on two different occasions, I’m convinced that every Black person should visit Africa at least once. It will change your entire life. It most definitely changed mine.

I heard about a mission trip that was heading to Zambia. I signed up to be interviewed for the trip, but completely chickened out. Why? I was scared. What was I doing actually considering going to Africa? On one hand I really wanted to go, however on the other hand I was completely terrified. There were civil wars happening in Africa. Women were getting raped in Africa. Lions were freely walking around in Africa. I’m disgusted at how much the media had influenced my thoughts about Africa. On top of it all, I’m from the South side of Chicago, which has the number 1 murder rate, period. If something detrimental was going to happen to me, it was more than likely to occur in Chicago, not in Africa. Nevertheless, leaders of the trip pursued me, and encouraged me to partake in an experience that would give me a new perspective on life. I agreed.

Nikki Thompson

The location was N’Dola, Zambia. We had a layover at the Johannesburg Airport in South Africa. The first thing I did when stepping off the plane, was touch the ground. This was extremely important to me. I was officially in the Motherland. The place where it all began for my people. The small layover in South Africa taught us an unexpected lesson. All of the workers were Black! How was this possible? It dawned on us: we were no longer the minority. No. In Africa there were Black doctors, Black entrepreneurs, etc. Black people working together was the norm. At that moment I let go of any fear I had, and my preconceived ideas of Africa. I didn’t know what Africa had in store for me, but I was completely open for whatever.

Nikki Thompson

I heard children speak about how AIDS ruined their family, but still saw bright smiles on their faces. I saw families walk 9 miles just to attend a Sunday worship service. I stayed with a family who opened up their home to us, giving what they had. I learned that the houses in Africa look just like the ones in America. Go figure. I purposedly used the bathroom in the ground, when the opportunity was presented. Hey, I was on a mission to experience it ALL. I ate N’shima. I spoke in Bemba. I attended a wedding. Unfortunately, I attended a funeral. A Zambian funeral of a little boy who passed away from a disease that is curable here in the States. I saw Africans weep. I wept and felt their pain. I was 23 years old learning lessons in Africa, that I NEVER learned in America.

Africa gives you a sense of pride. Although I struggled internally with where I stood as a descendant of Africa, the people of Zambia were very accepting. After witnessing the strength of the men on the farms, the women carrying babies on their backs while carrying water on their heads, and the pure joy of orphans, it’s safe to say we come from a legacy of powerful people with unbreakable spirits. Media fails to show you the beautiful waterfalls, monstrous mountains, and green pastures. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the angelic voices of an African community singing together on one accord. And last but not least, you have yet to discover another side of you, until you’ve spent time in the home of your ancestors. Africa is calling. What are you waiting for?