■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The Valley Chronicle decided to kick off Black History Month by honoring the Congressional Black Caucus, the late-great Hugh Masekela and Dr. Mae Jemison.
According to History.com, “President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to ‘seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”’ Every president since Ford has designated February as Black History Month.
The Congressional Black Caucus
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) took a steadfast stand of “no” on passing an interim budget. This is not a surprise as the CBC routinely flexes its muscle on social justice and inequality issues. Formed in 1971, the initial, informal group, Democracy Select Committee (DSC) was formed by Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Mich.). The members of the DSC of the 92nd Congress decided a more “formal group was needed,” and the Congressional Black Caucus was born.
According to the website, “For the 115th Congress, the CBC has a historic 49 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, representing 78 million Americans, 24 percent of the total U.S. population, and 17 million African-Americans, 41 percent of the total U.S. African-American population. In addition, the CBC represents almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus.”
Hugh Masekela, the “father of South African Jazz”
Almost two weeks ago, the world said goodbye to jazz legend Hugh Masekela, whom the states had the pleasure of educating at the Manhattan School of Music in 1960. Masekela, who was born April 4, 1939, was instrumental in South Africa’s anti-apartheid and America’s anti-segregation movements. He became known as the “father of South African Jazz.” While in exile in Europe and in the states, Masekela studied under musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, but developing his own style. Masekela is quoted on his official website, “My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are.” He died in South Africa on Jan. 23, 2018.
Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space. Her expedition on the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992 led the way for future NASA astronauts such as Yvonne Darlene Cagle, M.D., Jeanette J. Epps, Joan E. Higginbotham and Stephanie D. Wilson. Jemison was educated at Stanford, then went on to medical school at Cornell. According to Biography.com, “she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research.” Jemison resigned from NASA in 1993 and accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth and “also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies.”
Next week, we will select several more inspirational figures as we continue our celebration of Black History Month.