Club Valiants Inc., Philadelphia Chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Holiday Inn in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday. An anniversary dinner ended the organization’s Northeast Region meeting that began on Sept. 28 on a very special and meaningful note.
Eric Fleming, president of Club Valiants Inc., Philadelphia Chapter, extended a warm welcome to friends, families and supporters attending the celebration. Fleming noted, “We recognize the men and women who had the vision and courage to create an organization that allowed them to come together to share their experience, strength and hope for the purpose of becoming better at their chosen profession. The year 1962, the year the organization was founded, was a tumultuous time in America. The demand for civil rights, equal opportunity and an end to the discriminatory hiring and promotional practices was gaining steam. Club Valiants Inc. rose to the occasion and began the long and arduous fight to address these same issues within the Philadelphia Fire Department.”
Acclaimed actress Alfre Woodard was special guest speaker at the dinner. Woodard narrated a documentary in 2005 about the heroic Black firefighters who lost their lives in the horrific attack against on our country on September 11, 2001.
She is traveling throughout the country to remind us of the importance of voting for President Barack Obama.
Patty Jackson, the popular 105.3 WDAS-FM radio personality, did an outstanding job as the evening’s mistress of ceremonies.
Club Valiants members in attendance were recognized. Fleming pointed out, “We are the offspring of the founding members and it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge our parents. Had it not been for them, we would not be in the profession we are in today.”
During a discussion with Fleming, I referred to the segregation of the U.S. Military to segregation in the firefighting profession. He informed me that the Philadelphia Fire Department was not integrated until seven years after President Harry Truman ordered the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Ethel Hendricks, wife of the late Charles Hendricks, has worked tirelessly and effectively to carry on her husband’s legacy as a founding member. The men and women who support their partners who put their lives on the line each and every day as firefighting professionals play an incredibly supportive role in their lives.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers led a special ceremony in which attendees spoke the names of Hendrick and so many other Black professional firefighters who laid the ground work for those men and women in the profession today. Tribute was paid to those brave men and women who gave their lives in the line of duty.
A compelling documentary, “Valiants, Inc.” was premiered at the dinner and introduced by the film’s producer Chanda Jones. Jone’s mother, Elaine Jones, wrote the script. The film captured the essence of the Black firefighters experiences, struggles and stories with real faces. Their sacrifices and triumphs are well documented in this must see film. “Valiants, Inc.” can be ordered on line at www.clubvaliantsinc.com.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the President’s Award to Lieutenant Lisa Forrest of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Lieutenant Forrest was recognized for her outstanding service, professionalism and dedication.
Proclamations were presented to Club Valiants Inc. by the offices of state Rep. Dwight Evans and state Sen. Shirley M. Kitchen. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was among the 300 attendees at the dinner and presentation a citation on behalf of the entire Philadelphia City Council.
Congratulations, best wishes and thank you Club Valiants Inc., International Association of Black Professional Firefighters.