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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Black History Month

A couple of items of note in honor of Black History month.

Denny Middle School was featured in a recent article in the Seattle Times for a play they are staging. It's called "The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed" based on a children's book of the same name by a local writer, Marcia Tate Arunga. She, along with other local artists, is directing the play.

The students will be performing the play on Saturday, the 19th, as part of their celebration, Soul Jambalaya. It will start at 7 p.m. at Chief Sealth High School. Admission is free but donations for a scholarship fund will be accepted.

From the article:

Patricia Rangel, an administrator at Denny, said the story of the "the stolen ones" strengthens the school's U.S. history curriculum.

At this point in the year, she said, seventh-graders are learning about the transatlantic slave trade. "We thought how great, how rich to bring this global perspective, the African perspective of that experience, to our students."

Arunga was invited to serve as artist-in-residence at Denny and to produce the play in a project supported by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission.

Another great news segment I saw was on NBS news about the first female African-American Coast Guard pilot. This young woman, LaShanda Holmes, is a study in courage and determination.

While she was attending Spellman College, she worked a job fair and noticed that hardly anyone came by the Coast Guard booth so she stopped by to say hello. That chance meeting led to her joining the Coast Guard.

Her mother committed suicide when she was just two and she was abused and bounced around until she found a wonderful foster mother who cared for her until she graduated high school. They don't explain it in the story but I'm pretty sure this determined young woman got a scholarship to go to Spellman.

I have always been interested in stories about children who succeed despite terrible life circumstances; why do some people become resilient and others fail?

She has four proud foster sisters who look up to her.

3 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Wouldn't it be nice to have the history of Blacks in America taught throughout the curriculum and the year, but as Blacks are still subject to current racism, and to the effects of past racism, I'm glad there is this focus once a year. May we all learn about our racism this month and all year.

seattle citizen said...

As a sailor, I find this to be a fascinating piece of Black history:
Part I:
(from the official Coast Guard history site, Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS 1839-1904

Revenue Captain Michael A. Healy, commanding officer of the cutters Chandler, Corwin, Bear, McCulloch and Thetis, became a legend enforcing federal law along Alaska's 20,000 mile coastline. In addition to being a friend to missionaries and scientists, he was a rescuer of whalers, natives, shipwrecked sailors, and destitute miners.

Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS, was born near Macon, Georgia in 1839. He was the fifth of ten children born to Michael Morris Healy, an Irish plantation owner, and his wife Mary Elisa Smith, a former slave. This family produced a number of distinguished individuals. Three brothers entered the priesthood; James became the first black bishop in North America, Patrick was president of Georgetown University, and Sherwood became an expert in canon law. Three sisters became nuns, one reaching the level of mother superior.

Michael Healy was uninterested in academic pursuits and so began a seagoing career as a cabin boy aboard the American East Indian Clipper Jumna in 1854. He quickly became an expert seaman and rose to the rank of officer on merchant vessels.

In 1864 he applied for a commission in the U.S. Revenue Marine and was accepted as a Third Lieutenant, his commission being signed by President Abraham Lincoln. After serving successfully on several cutters along the east coast, he began his lengthy service in Alaskan waters in 1875 as the second officer on the cutter Rush. He was given command of the revenue cutter Chandler in 1877. He took command of the cutter Corwin in 1882 and was promoted to Captain the following year. In 1884 he and the Corwin participated in a controversial bombardment of the native village of Angoon at the request of an officer of the U.S. Navy on patrol in the area.
(continued)

seattle citizen said...

Part II of Healy, USRCS:

In 1886 he took command of the cutter Bear. Although already held in high regard as a seaman and navigator in the waters of Alaska, it was as commanding officer of Bear that Healy truly made his mark in history. During the last two decades of the 19th Century, Captain Healy was the United States Government in most of Alaska. In his twenty years of service between San Francisco and Point Barrow, he acted as: judge, doctor, and policemen to Alaskan natives, merchant seamen and whaling crews.

He operated in an eerie echo of what would become the mission of his Coast Guard successors a century later: protecting the natural resources of the region, suppressing illegal trade, resupply of remote outposts, enforcement of the law, and search and rescue. Even in the early days of Arctic operations, science was an important part of the mission. Renowned naturalist John Muir made a number of voyages with Healy during the 1880s as part of an ambitious scientific program. With the reduction in the seal and whale populations, he introduced reindeer from Siberia to Alaska to provide food, clothing and other necessities for the native peoples.

The primary instrument in Healy's capable hands, to accomplish all of this, was the cutter Bear, probably the most famous ship in the history of the Coast Guard. Under "Hell Roaring Mike", Bear became legendary as "Healy's Fire Canoe". Healy and Bear proved to be a perfect match, a marriage of vessel capability and unrivaled ice seamanship that became legend. He served as her commanding officer until 1895.

During that time he became something of a celebrity. A January 1894 article in the New York Sun described him thusly:

"Capt. Mike Healy is a good deal more distinguished person in the waters of the far Northwest than any president of the United States or any potentate of Europe has yet become. He stands for law and order in many thousands of land and water, and if you should ask in the Arctic Sea, 'Who is the greatest man in America?' the instant answer would be 'Why, Mike Healy.' When an innocent citizen of the Atlantic coast once asked on the Pacific who Mike Healy was, the answer came, 'Why, he’s the United States. He holds in these parts a power of attorney for the whole country.'"