In the late 1990s I approached Dr. Jonathan Lewis with a plan to bring a month-long Black History Program to Lee-Davis High School. He approved the plan and we had a wonderful celebration allowing him to meet one of his heroes, Mr. .Oliver Hill, Civil Rights lawyer and a part of the team who fought for the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Here, some 20 years later, we had the pleasure of planting additional seeds at Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
Many thanks to Dr. Quentin Ballard for seeing the same vision for what this could do as did Dr. Lewis.
We set out to embrace the culture of African Americans in our school by sharing their history for the entire month of February.
February is known as Black History Month. For me, that name is a misnomer because the history of African Americans is already a part of the history of America.
Though our history is a part of American history, it has not often been included in the education of our students. A reminder of this was in a living history personality showcase of the life of Frederick Douglass, a well-known Black American.
When asked how many students knew who Frederick Douglas was, only five hands went up in a setting of three or four classes.
Students were enthusiastically engaged and positively impressed with the varied speakers for the month. We were overwhelmed with the great reception received by parents, faculty and students as we shared so much history.
With grateful thanks to all of our speakers, we were able to bring to SJMS, the following personal career stories or history of the lives of African Americans:
Jerome and Jeromyah Jones. Father and son artist team.
*Joshua Allen, featured his old- world horns, played them and sang for the students.
*Leroy Bray, one of the Richmond 34, spoke of his sit-in experiences at Thalhimer’s Department stores.
*Ginai Seabron the first nano scientist to graduate from Virginia Tech.
Dr. Oliver Hill Jr. spoke about the life of his father, Civil Rights lawyer Oliver Hill.
Nathan Richardson portrayed the living history of Frederick Douglass. He stayed with us for the entire day.
*Harold Stills, the first black teacher at Lee-Davis High School shared his experiences with the students giving us a full day of his time.
*Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club shared the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the work they do in the community with Mr. Clarence Hunter Jr.
*Anthony Kiett shared his career as a voice actor with our students.
*Earl Hunter Jr. spoke with the students of his challenges serving in our Armed Forces and his career as the 2nd Black Helicopter pilot.
Cary Mitchell shared his career as an NBA designer who has designed for golfer Tiger Woods, Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and many other NBA stars
*Mac McCadden, a professional baseball umpire and basketball referee, shared his signed gloves by Mike Tyson, his Hall of Fame induction plaque and other sports memorabilia as well as his stories of meeting Satchel Page and other celebrity sports persons
Dante Jackson, A first vice president with Bank of America, financial planner, worked with our students to understand a need for saving.
Chief Judge Roger Gregory, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was the first in the United States to be appointed by two different presidents and two different parties spoke with our students about a career in law.
Daphne Maxwell Reid, Actress and Aunt Viv from the show “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” spoke about careers in the field of acting.
*Samantha Willis, Journalist and documentary writer gave her perspective on writing.
Perry Miller, The first black president and CEO of Richmond International Airport presented varying careers with the airlines.
*Jock Jones, Professional NFL player who played for the Cardinals and the Browns. He was a Lee-Davis graduate.
*Mrs. Torski Dobson, Arnold motivated and encouraged students and teachers with her presentation on the use of meditation and yoga to reduce stress and inappropriate behavior. Teachers and students were active participants in this session.
*Mrs. Ajena Rogers, who is with the National Park Ranger Services ended our final two days as she presented the story of Maggie L. Walker
Dr. Kimberly Matthews, Professor and author presented our final session on Friday the 28th discussing our books, “The Richmond Crusade for Voters” and the “Richmond 34.”
All persons with an * by their name have Hanover roots. We are grateful to the following team of people for the coordination and seamless efforts to include this program into the daily studies of our students. We give thanks to our SJMS PTA; principal, Dr. Quentin Ballard; assistant principal, Mrs. Monique Bigsby Johnson, Mr. Scott Rowe, Mrs. Amy Gaulton, Mrs. Tina Miller our school librarians , and Mrs. Peggy Lavinder, who were all an integral part of this program. The seeds have been planted and now we must water them for united growth in Hanover County.