By Nick Diamantides
The history and accomplishments of African Americans should inspire every nation and group to work harder to make the world a better place, according to 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews. As one of the featured speakers at the Black History Month Luncheon, he exhorted audience members to not make the mistake of thinking enough has been done to bring about equality and justice for all.
About 100 people attended the event, which took place in the facilities center at Marin Luther King Jr. Park last Friday, February 19.
“We as a group of people have truly come a long way since the beginning of time,” Andrews said. “We not only amazed ourselves, but others around the world with our God-given abilities to achieve and to overcome.”
Andrews briefly mentioned the ancient African civilizations and then focused on the centuries of affliction and injustice inflicted on Africans by European empires. “We endured the conditions of slavery. To this day, others admit that they would not have been able to bear slavery,” Andrews said, noting that after slavery was abolished, former slaves and their descendants began their long, difficult march to equality. “We persevered on to demand our civil rights,” he said. “To this day other races are benefiting from our efforts.”
Andrews also proudly pointed out that since slavery was abolished in the United States, African Americans have made great contributions in the fields of science, medicine, arts, entertainment and sports. “We came together with other nationalities and elected Barack Obama as our country’s very first African American president,” he added. “I wonder if just one of our slave ancestors ever dreamed of this accomplishment becoming a reality.”
Andrews told the audience that it was good and proper to reflect on the accomplishments and milestones of African Americans, but warned against dropping the vigilance and slowing down the pace of progress. “We all know that we cannot stand to rest and think that there is nothing else left to be done because we have come a long way,” he explained. “In spite of how the future looks for the younger generations, I truly believe that they will accomplish much more than we have now or anything we can imagine.”
Andrews added that he was excited by the many accomplishments of African Americans. “I encourage you all to continue to promote Black History Month,” he said. “We must never let our history die.”
After Andrews’ remarks, Theresa Marino, Sherri Nixon-Joiner, and Gwendolyn Manning-Robinson made brief presentations. Marino and Manning-Robinson manage programs in the city’s health department, and Nixon-Joiner manages programs in the city’s park department. All three praised the many mentors– some of whom were in the audience– who helped steer local youth on the path to successful lives and careers through programs offered at the park’s facilities center during the past 35 years.
Keynote speaker Pastor Wayne Chaney Jr. preached on the importance of nurturing and mentoring children and teenagers. “I want to focus especially on the role of African American men as it relates to their role in shaping this community,” he said, explaining that the failure of many fathers to lead and mentor their children in the right way has led to the breakdown of many families.
Chaney said that an important lesson could be learned from the Biblical account of ancient Israel’s King David’s impending death and the parting words he spoke to his son Solomon. “David said, ‘Solomon, I want you to be strong and show yourself a man,’” Chaney said. “Then he imparted to him (the importance) of living according to the principals of God’s word.”
The preacher then quoted from Psalm 127, which contains this verse: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.”
“We are not to be haphazard in the way we handle our children,” Chaney said. “Just like an archer aims his arrows, we have to aim the next generation on the straight path that is clearly defined in the Bible.”
In his approximately half-hour sermon, Chaney noted that most mothers are devoted to giving their children a proper upbringing. “The missing link is men who are not taking their rightful place in that regard,” he said.
Following Chaney’s presentation, facilities center supervisor Tracy Colunga made some closing remarks. She thanked the people who had served as mentors over the past 35 years, pledging that their good work would continue on into the future.
Long Beach Police Department West Division Commander Robert Lumen, who was in attendance, said he agreed with the speakers. “We need to remember the trials and the tribulations of the African American people and the need to celebrate their accomplishments,” he noted. “Most importantly, we need to recognize and push the movement towards a diverse, integrated and more peaceful community. I can’t stress enough the importance of being collaborative in our efforts with the community and the police.”