By Dee Ford Byas
“Black history is American history” and history in the making, so says several special guests to hundreds who convened outside Chandler Museum, receiving enccouragement to keep growing and exemplifying Black representation.
BASE — Black Alliance Social Empowerment — nonprofit organization Arizona presented, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, Diversity, Health & Wellness,” on Friday, Jan. 31, for a Black History Month event in Chandler. While touting a “visible and vibrant community,” BASE Arizona President Keasha Beach introduced a lineup of motivational speakers arranged by the organization, which has a mission of promoting and addressing opportunity gaps in the Black community.
Included among speakers were Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke; City Councilman OD Harris; Congregational Church of the Valley Pastor Victor Hardy, who is co-founder of the Chandler Men of Action; Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding; Greater Phoenix Urban League Economic Empowerment Director Jerry McPherson; Roy Tatem, community leader/entrepreneur; NAACP East Valley President Kiana Sears; Arizona Informant Newspaper Publisher Cloves Campbell Jr., who is also the Arizona Commission of African American Affairs executive director.
“I am so proud of the city of Chandler for doing what you are doing tonight. Having so many Black people out here is a feat itself,” Campbell said to the diverse Chandler crowd. “I never thought I would have seen this many Black folks at one place at one time. I never thought I would see it happen this quickly.”
Calling himself an “OG,” he recognized past individuals who “gave us every opportunity to help us along the way,” and present influencers contributing to the Black community’s growth locally and abroad. He noted the importance of helping others reach a level of success and benefit the community.
“When people move to Arizona, they slide in and just do nothing. Do something when you get to Arizona,” said Campbell.
Adding how the Arizona Informant newspaper is “about reporting Black history,” he stressed for people to continue making history daily since “Black history is our history, every time that you wake up.”
“It’s all about our history. We cannot let people change our history right now. Teach people about our history … Our history is our history. If we talk about white folks’ history, it’s the white man’s story. It’s his story,” Campbell said. “Your children will have to know what our real history is about.”
“In many schools, there is a movement to take away our history, but I know that Black history is American history. We have the ability to achieve and do whatever we set our minds to,” said Bolding.
Marcus Orelias, of Chandler, attended the event with his mother Deundra Fenley, of Phoenix, and a friend, Patricia Butts, of Maricopa. They perused the museum’s Black History Month exhibit.
“I think it’s important that whenever Black people are building community that we connect with the ancestors and help build the connection that they started to build for us,” said Orelias. “The beautiful thing about our people is that there isn’t a part of our planet that we haven’t touched.”
Maricopa residents, Jouven and Danielle Lemorin, brought their 9-year-old twins, Rihanna and Elianna, who participated in a scavenger hunt highlighting Black History Month trivia at the museum.
“I want them to learn more of Black history, what Black people have done for this world,” the mother said, adding she also wanted to know specifically about Black history in Arizona since she is not a native.
Similarly, Jasmine Brown, of Phoenix, wanted her children, Jahmon, 5, Jahziah, 6, Ahmoni, 8; and Brooklyn, whose ninth birthday is Feb. 11, to learn more about their history. She and her soon-to-be in-laws had a food truck with a vegan menu at the affair that was filled with food, entertainment, and activities.
“They need to learn more about their roots. They’re definitely going to know where we come from,” she said.