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Promoting education, culture, and diversity: Texas Southern partners with IgboFest   

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For two years, Texas Southern University (TSU) has collaborated with IgboFest Houston, a cultural entity and festival that showcases the African heritage and Igbo culture to the great city of Houston, to promote, embrace, and encourage culture, and diversity education in the community.

This year, TSU will be visibly present at this festival to highlight their potentials as an inclusive, equitable, and welcoming institution for all members of the community. A team from the institution will be on the ground to share remarkable information about the great institution.

Last year, an internationally renowned TSU’s Debate Team was at this event and performed the “Igbo Landing Mass Suicide of 1803”, a rendition of one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved people that took place when Igbo captives from what is now Nigeria were taken to the coast of Georgia.

According to Dr. Chris Ulasi, TSU’s acting Dean of the School of Communications who also chairs the Houston IgboFeast, “This partnership is highly needed and most importantly, would reflect the mission of the IgboFest in building cultural awareness, linguistic diversity through teaching and learning of critically endangered languages, and youth cultural literacy.”

IgboFest Houston has reigned for decades in the City, bringing in performers from across the United States and globally. This year, IgboFest will display the Ijele Masquerade, classified as the biggest masquerade in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Bringing the African heritage and indeed the Igbo culture to the most diverse city in America is traditionally motivating and spiritually authentic,” Dr Ulasi said.

This colorful carnival, which also is the largest African cultural festival in the City, will hold at the Discovery Green – 1500 McKinney on Saturday, July 22, 2023. Admission is free.

Group performances will range from traditional to acrobatic dancers, whereas other displays will involve very rare masquerades from Igboland. Expected at this event are; Government representatives including Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, Texas Hour Rep. Jarvis Johnson, and others.

Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), possesses an impressive array of undergraduate and graduate programs, a diverse faculty, 80-plus student organizations, and an alumni network comprised of educators, entrepreneurs, public servants, lawyers, pilots, artists, and more, many of whom are change agents on the local, national and international stage.

For more information, please call 281-788-8133  or  832-452-7784

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11 Black history facts to commemorate Black History Month

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From Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King Jr., learn more about the luminaries and events that shaped the past and continue to define the future.

Each year from Feb. 1 to March 1, Black History Month is recognized in the U.S.

Set aside to commemorate the many contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans, the observation provides an opportunity to spotlight the sacrifices, heritage and luminaries that helped shape our country’s history.

What initially began as a week near a century ago, became a month-long celebration in 1976 when President Gerald Ford officially decreed Black History Month an official observation.

How that recognition evolved is one of many Black History facts you may not already know, but it’s instrumental in how we recognize Black History Month today.

There are also many other details you may or may not be aware of. For instance, you’re probably aware that Harriet Tubman was responsible for saving the lives of countless enslaved persons through the Underground Railroad. But did you know that after enlisting in the Civil War, Tubman was also the first Black woman to lead an armed military operation in the U.S.?

Read on to learn more about Tubman’s contributions, along with facts about other notable figures like Rosa ParksMartin Luther King Jr. and Carter Woodson.

You’ll also find details on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who the first Black American to win an Academy Award was, which legendary Black musicians were among the first inductees of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and many other notable facts to honor and commemorate Black History Month this year.

Black History Month began as a week

Black History Month began as merely a week back in 1926 thanks to the efforts of one man: Carter G. Woodson. A scholar and teacher, Woodson was the second Black American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard among many other academic achievements.

Woodson believed that Black history was largely ignored in education, saying that African American contributions were “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them,” according to the NAACP.

Aiming to change that, Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926 to honor and highlight the contributions of Black Americans, choosing the second week of February to align with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

The annual commemoration would eventually evolve into the month-long celebration that we now know as Black History Month.

President Gerald Ford established Black History Month

During America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976, U.S. president, Gerald Ford, extended what was, then, Black History Week into a month-long recognition.

In a message delivered on Feb. 10, 1976, Ford officially designated the observation, urging citizens to join him in tribute to Black History Month, citing the message of “courage and perseverance” it brings.

“Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since,” Ford said in his message and called on citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments” of Black Americans.

Thurgood Marshall was the first Black American appointed to the Supreme Court

Though the U.S. Supreme Court was officially established in 1789, it would be nearly 180 years before a Black American was appointed as one of the justices.

On Aug. 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, becoming the first Black person to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Marshall served on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring in 1991.

Aside from Marshall, the other two Black Americans to serve on the Supreme Court are current Justices, Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Two U.S. museums honor Black history, culture and heritage

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., is a national museum exclusively dedicated to documenting the life, history and culture of African American citizens.

Boasting a collection of more than 40,000 artifacts, the museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and was dedicated, fittingly, by the U.S.’s first Black president, Barack Obama, on Sept. 24, 2016.

The recently-opened International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina also recognizes the heritage and traditions of African Americans and their experience through art, language, music, food and more.

The first Black person to win an Oscar was…

In 1940, actor Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to be nominated for — and win — an Academy Award for her performance as “Mammy” in the film “Gone with the Wind.”

Appearing in more than 300 films, it was her supporting role in the classic 1939 movie that earned McDaniel an Oscar plaque (statuettes wouldn’t become the norm until a few years later) for the honor.

Though the achievement was history-making, McDaniel and her guest were still required to sit separate from the other nominees as part of the still-enforced segregation. And despite the accomplishment, it would take more than 50 years for another Black woman to take home a trophy. A distinction that goes to Halle Berry, who won an Oscar for her role in “Monster’s Ball” in 2002.

Part of MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream” speech was improvised

The galvanizing speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Monument in 1963 goes down in history as one of the most memorable of all time.

Known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s address in front of more than 250,000 people gathered together for the March on Washington didn’t initially include some the historic passages that have since come to define the Civil Rights Movement.

In fact, some of King’s most iconic quotes came unscripted after gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, encouraged King to tell the crowd about “the dream,” leading him to improvise that portion of the speech, according to the National Constitution Center.

Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and others are among the first ever inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has been honoring legendary musicians and performers since it was established in 1986.

Luminaries from the first class of trailblazers inducted into the Hall of Fame include the following performers: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Robert Johnson, Little Richard and Jimmy Yancey.

The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Aretha Franklin in 1987.

Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in 2021

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden officially established Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday, the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated as a federal holiday back in 1983.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that legalized slavery officially ended in Texas, the last of the Confederate states to abolish the practice.

Though the holiday wasn’t made official until 2021, Juneteenth has been commemorated in the U.S. and countries around the world for decades and represents Black citizens’ fight for equality, as well as honoring family and community.

Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat because she was ‘tired of giving in’

Activist Rosa Parks is best known for her role in the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott in 1955. Refusing to move to the back of the bus, as was customary for Black citizens, Parks sat in one of the front seats typically reserved for white passengers.

As a result, Parks was arrested, sparking a year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system, which ultimately led to the desegregation of public transportation nationwide.

In the years since, some have suggested Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus simply because she was tired after work, a fact Parks refuted in her 1992 autobiography saying:

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Harriet Tubman was the first Black woman to serve in the military

Known for helping enslaved persons escape and gain their freedom in through the Underground Railroad, it might be less known that Harriet Tubman also served for the Union Army during the Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865.

Working as a nurse, scout, spy and soldier, Harriet Tubman is considered the first Black woman to actively serve in the military, according to the National Women’s History Museum.

After serving in the war, Tubman helped raise money for freedmen along with joining Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in their fight for women’s rights.

Vermont was the first state to ban slavery, Mississippi the last

Known for its sleepy towns and breathtaking scenery, Vermont is also the first state in the American colonies to outright ban slavery. On July 2, 1777, Vermont’s legislature voted to not only abolish the practice, but also secure voting rights for Black men.

In subsequent years, other eastern states followed including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

After a clerical error in which Mississippi failed to ratify the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in 1865, the state became the last in the U.S. to officially abolish slavery in February of 2013 148 years after Congress passed the initial resolution.

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Praising October 7 is like cheering lynchings of African Americans

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In a speech marking MLK Day, Ritchie Torres says reactions to Hamas-led atrocities ‘revealed a barbarity of the American heart that reminded me of an earlier and darker time’

JTA — In a speech marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, Rep. Ritchie Torres likened protesters who have celebrated Hamas’s October 7 massacres to white people in the Jim Crow era who celebrated after the lynching of Black people.

“I was profoundly shaken not only by October 7, but by the aftermath,” Torres, a Black Bronx Democrat, said Friday in a speech at Central Synagogue, a prominent Reform congregation in midtown Manhattan. “I found it utterly horrifying. To see fellow Americans openly cheering and celebrating the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. And for me, the aftermath of October 7 revealed a barbarity of the American heart that reminded me of an earlier and darker time in our nation’s history, a time when the public mobs of Jim Crow would openly celebrate the lynching of African Americans.”

Protests have proliferated since October 7, when Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, kidnapped around 240 and brutalized thousands more in an invasion from Gaza. They have grown as Israel has waged a war in Gaza to eliminate the terror group, and especially as casualties mounted: So far, close to 25,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, which does not differentiate between fighters and non-combatants and is also believed to tally civilians killed by errant rockets fired by terror groups.

A number of the protests have decried the October 7 violence on Israelis, but others have skated over the initial massacres or have embraced Hamas and described its atrocities as resistance.

Torres, a member of the progressive caucus in Congress, has garnered a reputation as an unstinting supporter of Israel. He has duked it out online with fellow progressives in debates over Israel, a dynamic that has only intensified since October 7. Torres is heavily funded by AIPAC and donors aligned with the pro-Israel lobby, and spoke at a massive rally for Israel in Washington on November 14.

In his speech, Torres alluded to the controversies that assailed elite universities after the presidents of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania told Congress that calls to commit genocide against Jews did not necessarily violate the schools’ codes of conduct. The ensuing uproar drove Harvard’s and Penn’s presidents to resign.

“What we’ve seen in the aftermath of October 7, is appalling silence and indifference and cowardice from so called leaders in our society from institutions that we once respected and admired,” he said. “And if we as a society cannot bring ourselves to condemn the murder of innocents with moral clarity, then we must ask, what are we becoming as a society? What does that reveal about the depths of antisemitism in the American soul?”

Central is a locus for some of the city’s wealthiest liberal Jewish families, many of whom are also firm supporters of Israel. Dr. Shonni Silverberg, the synagogue president, introduced Torres as a champion of progressive priorities as well as an advocate for Israel, and noted that he is the first openly LGBTQ representative elected from the Bronx.

“Ritchie remains steadfastly focused on the priorities of his South Bronx constituents, expanding access to safe and affordable housing, rebuilding New York economically and ensuring that no child goes hungry and that all receive a good education,” she said. “But he has also shown himself both in and out of Congress to be a great friend of the American Jewish community and Israel.”

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Cori Bush Introduces $14 Trillion Reparations Resolution In Congress

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A group of legislators led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of reparations. The resolution, which includes a $14 trillion price tag, is the latest in growing efforts across the country to implement reparations programs for Black Americans as a way to redress the enduring legacy of slavery and racism in this country.

Rep. Bush discussed the latest push in favor or reparations in a press conference last Wednesday. Joined by fellow member of Congress Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-TX) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Bush discussed the resolution, which would support existing and future legislative efforts towards reparations at the federal, state and local levels. “Black people in our country cannot wait any longer for our government to begin addressing each and every one of the extraordinary bits of harm it has caused since its founding,” Bush told reporters. She added that these injustices against Black Americans persist “each and every day all across our communities all across this country.”

According to NPR, Bush’s new legislation calls for a total of $14 trillion in reparations to Black Americans. That price tag for the Reparations Now Resolution is consistent with an estimate by Duke economist William Darity, Jr. concerning the total amount needed to address the ongoing impact of slavery and its aftermath. The proposal by Bush is the boldest reparations proposal yet to emerge at the federal level. It is a complement to H.R. 40, the bill that has been proposed every year since 1989 in order to compel the federal government to study the idea of reparations for slavery and to propose potential methods of compensation. Though H.R. 40 has never received a formal vote by Congress, the bill and the general movement towards reparations have gained prominence over the past several years and saw significant interest during the period of racial reckoning in 2020.

In addition to the federal proposals for reparations, various local and state-level initiatives are currently undergoing to make up for slavery and racism. St. Louis became the latest major city to explore reparations when it convened its Commission on Reparations last month. Earlier this month, Washington state signed into law a program to provide financial compensation for victims of “redlining” housing discrimination. The California Reparations Task Force created in 2020 has formally endorsed a slew of major proposals to redress the impact of slavery, mass incarceration, and other forms of anti-Black systemic racism in the state. These include tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments to Black Californians as well as a host of other reforms; the state legislature could soon begin voting on these measures which could constitute the largest reparations program in the country so far.

Bush’s $14 trillion Reparations Now bill is unlikely to pass in the currently divided Congress. Yet, her bold statement represents the massive effects of racism and the radical steps necessary to address it in this country.

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