As community advocate Barbara Flemings greeted every new arrival to the USC Davis School of Gerontology auditorium, her khaki suit jacket flapped open, revealing a Barack Obama T-shirt.
“This is a great day to celebrate Black History Month,” she said, beaming, as she hurried off to check on her PowerPoint presentation. “We can never convey this type of information enough.”
Spearheaded by member Lee Bolden Charles, the event, titled “21st Century Black Keepers of the Flame” was presented by USC Davis Andrus Volunteers.
Featuring poetry, brief audiovisual biographical sketches of notable African-American leaders (including Obama, Colin Powell and Oprah Winfrey) and a discussion of world-changing inventions by African-American innovators, the event proved meaningful for participants, many of whom grew up in a different era.
“We are the beneficiaries of the black struggle for equal rights and equal opportunity. Although there is still a long way to go, the achievements of black Americans have been spectacular,” Charles said. “This program is intended to celebrate those achievements and recognize how the struggle of the past generations have benefited the present. I personally want to applaud the many exceptional black and white Americans who fought side by side for justice, equal opportunity and equality for all.”
Led by Victoria Lee, the group also sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” an enduring patriotic song associated with the civil rights movement that often was called “The Negro National Anthem.”
The program ended with volunteer Jane Anderson playing a musical adaptation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, performed by The Southeast Symphony and multiple choirs.
“Many of our volunteers remember vividly how different America used to be, so it meant so much for us to come together today to celebrate the progress made during our lifetimes,” said coordinator Linda Broder. “The living history and rich experiences assembled in the auditorium today were very inspirational.”