The Philadelphia Tribune honored prominent Philadelphians on Thursday at the annual Christopher J. Perry/Carter G. Woodson Black History Awards.
The event, which was held virtually for the third year in the row, was emceed by NBC10’s anchor Jacqueline London.
“This Black History Month, we’re celebrating the achievements of individuals whose work continues down the path by many of our African American ancestors,” London said. “I encourage you to remember and honor the work of African Americans who have contributed to the greatness of this nation.”
This year’s honorees included Estelle Richman, executive director of the Coalition to Save Lives and the Rev. Alyn Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
“Our history and culture is a people’s story and for 139 years The Philadelphia Tribune has recorded a great deal of that history and the African American experience in this region,” said Robert W. Bogle, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Tribune media group.
“This year, we celebrate history makers Estelle Richman and the Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller,” he added. “These two outstanding award recipients have truly been a part of our city’s narrative.”
The event’s keynote speaker was the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va.
Wesley led community protests marches against the New York grand jury decision in 2014 not to indict a New York Police Department officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner. His sermon “When the “Verdict Hurts” was also acknowledged in Time Magazine’s cover story in 2013.
Wesley spoke to the virtual audience about controversial critical race theory legislation that’s under consideration in several states.
“The proposed legislation of critical race theory would remove discussions of race from our history and suppress the reality and horrors of generational racism,” Wesley said.
“Florida is not alone. Right now, 36 states are in the process of removing anything from the public education curriculum that they deem divisive or unpatriotic, including the reality of the story of African Americans in this land,” he said.
“Carter G. Woodson (historian behind establishing Black History Month) once said ‘If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated.’ Dr. Woodson understood that if you do not look back every now and then and tell the truth of the history behind you, you serve and face the grave danger of being exterminated in your future,” he added.
Wesley stated that if history is not passed down to future generations, policies will be implemented to prohibit progress.
“If you don’t remember the segregation of Jim Crow, you’ll fight why you have to take diversity, equity and inclusionary training,” Wesley said. “If you don’t remember Bull Connor (white supremacist and official who enforced racial segregation in Birmingham, Ala.), you will ask what’s the big deal about a Confederate flag flying over the state capitol?
“If you don’t know the names Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins, (four Black girls killed in Birmingham church firebombing in 1963) you won’t understand the uproar about Breonna Taylor,” he said. “If you don’t remember Emmett Till, you will never understand our frustration around George Floyd and Tyre Nichols.
“If you don’t know who Medgar Evers is, then you’ll have nothing to say about voter suppression tactics ... If you don’t remember the Dred Scott decision, you’ll never know why Ketanji Brown Jackson had to be appointed to the Supreme Court and why I don’t mess with Clarence Thomas. If you don’t know where we come from, you’ll take us backwards,” he added.
Wesley also told attendees that if they don’t know the price of their privilege their value will suffer.
“What a shame, to be in a place of privilege and not know how you got there,” Wesley said. “What a shame to sit in a position of power and not know the names of those who sacrificed for you to be in the room.
“What a shame, to be clueless of the people who sacrificed, prayed and laid their lives down for you,” he said. “If you knew how much it cost, if you knew the sacrifice you would have treated it differently. If you don’t know the price of your privilege you will always disrespect its value.”
Wesley ended his speech with a call to action, telling the virtual crowd to pass down their history to their children.
“If they won’t tell our stories to our children, we will tell our stories to our children,” Wesley said. “We will teach the future generation about our history and culture so that they know the price of the privileges they possess.”
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