BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Only the beginning — much more left to learn about #BlackHistoryMonth
Ruby Dee, Judith Jamison, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and more
It may be the end of Black History Month, but we all have much more to learn, and hopefully these posts will inspire you to make Black History a project for 365 days of the year.
Day 14 of #BlackHistoryMonth and it’s #ValentinesDay! I can’t think of a better day to honor two legends, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. They were involved in so many important film, television and theatre projects, but they were also a great example of a loving couple. Ozzie Davis passed in 2005 after being married to Ruby Dee for 56 years and when Ruby Dee passed in 2014 the AP reported:
“Since meeting on Broadway in 1946, she and her late husband were frequent collaborators. Their partnership rivaled the achievements of other celebrated performing couples, such as Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
“But they were more than a performing couple. They were also activists who fought for civil rights, particularly for blacks. “ ‘We used the arts as part of our struggle,’ she said at an appearance in Jackson, Miss., in 2006. ‘Ossie said he knew he had to conduct himself differently with skill and thought.’ “
Day 15 of #BlackHistoryMonth — I learned to love dance when I was in graduate school at UCLA and one of the first performances I went to was Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater — led by Judith Jamison who was Ailey’s muse for one of his most famous pieces, Cry (see link to the video in the comments)
From the Ailey website:
“Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became an international star. Over the next 15 years, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour-de-force solo Cry. During the 1970s and 80s, she appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, and formed her own company, The Jamison Project. She returned to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989 when Mr. Ailey asked her to succeed him as Artistic Director. In the 21 years that followed, she brought the Company to unprecedented heights — including two historic engagements in South Africa and a 50-city global tour to celebrate the Company’s 50th anniversary. Ms. Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a prime time Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Phoenix Award, and the Handel Medallion. She was also listed in “TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People” and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event. In 2015, she became the 50th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance.”
Day 16–17 (I missed a day) of #BlackHistoryMonth — Many folks have heard that my one claim to fame as a track athlete is that I got to compete against Jackie Joyner-Kersee when she was competing at UCLA and I was at Stanford. She got enough points in the meet to beat the entire Stanford team by herself, and I was in awe of her athletic ability. I didn’t belong in the same long jump pit!
Joyner-Kersee, whom many described as the best all-around female athlete in the world at the time, competed in the long jump and the grueling two-day-long heptathlon, winning two golds at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. She repeated as the Olympic heptathlon champ in 1992.
Going back in time, one of my role models in track was Wyonia Tyus. Tyus was not only the first Olympian to win back-to-back gold in the 100 meters in the 1964 and 1968 Summer Olympic games — she also made history in other ways. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when Tyus crossed the line first in the 100 meters, she set a world record of 11.08 seconds. And when she ran, she was wearing dark shorts instead of the team-issued white shorts, a gesture to show her support for human rights, she said “I grew up with colored bathrooms, colored water fountains, all those kinds of things. It’s not like I did not know how unfair things were happening to Black people, and especially women”
Day 18 of #BlackHistoryMonth! I’m getting personal with today’s post — I want to talk about #RadicalEmpathy and somebody who inspired me to pursue writing a memoir — today I want to recognize my friend Julie Lythcott-Haims. She is a true example of radical empathy in her willingness to share her own story in her memoir Real American, modeling vulnerability. She used her vantage point as Dean of Freshman at Stanford University to help parents understand the dangers of helicopter parenting in her book How to Raise an Adult and is helping our kids grow up in a crazy world with her latest book Your Turn: How to be an Adult. Thank you Julie for all that you do!
Day 19 of #BlackHistoryMonth — today I am highlighting my father, Rocelious (Roy) Givens, Jr. He was born on May 21, 1928 and left us on May 13, 2001. He lived a very full life, as class president of his high school, track star, Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, and father of seven. When he went to non-commissioned officers school in 1962, he was the only Black man in his class. I can only imagine what it was like for him, but he succeeded and he always inspired me to work hard and show everyone what I could do. His life was one of the main inspirations for my book #RadicalEmpathy and every time I see a gorgeous sunset I know he’s sending me a message that he still sees me and is proud of his family.
Day 20 of #BlackHistoryMonth. I grew up in a football crazy family, and in the 70s the Pittsburgh Steelers were my team (before the Seahawks joined the league). I’ll never forget when Jayne Kennedy became the first Black woman announcer on a nationally televised sports program in 1978 when she replaced Phyllis George on The NFL Today. She was a trailblazer who gave me hope that I could become whatever I wanted to be. She also suffered from endometriosis, a condition which I also dealt with, but often goes undiagnosed in Black women.
Rising up through the beauty pageant scene, young model Jayne Kennedy achieved visibility as Miss Ohio, went on to appear on TV shows including Laugh-In and the Dean Martin Show, and became a fixture on The NFL Today. Aside from her on-camera work, Kennedy was and still is an advocate for numerous charities.
Day 22 of #BlackHistoryMonth and who remembers Room 222?
“A comedy-drama series created by James L. Brooks and airing on ABC from 1969 to 1974, focusing on life at a typical American High School in Los Angeles and in particular the American history class taught inside the eponymous Room 222 by idealistic African-American teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes).
Many serious topics facing teenagers were addressed, some relevant today: bullying, depression, suicide, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, cheating, teacher-student relationships and so forth. Despite this, most episodes had at least one lighter-hearted subplot to provide balance.
In addition to being the first major success for Brooks (who would go on to develop many popular TV shows and films), it was one of the first successful series set at a high school to appeal directly to teenagers” (including my sisters who were a little older than me😊)
Day 23 of #BlackHistoryMonth is dedicated to an advocate for the forgotten and warrior for social justice, the Reverend William Barber II.
“Rev. William Barber II is one of the most unique voices in American public life.
A keynote speaker at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Barber has since emerged as one of the most prominent — and relentless — advocates for poor people in this country. The philosopher Cornel West has called him “the closest person we have to a Martin Luther King Jr.,” largely because of his former leadership of the North Carolina’s NAACP chapter, which has spearheaded the social justice movement called Moral Mondays.”
Day 24 of #BlackHistoryMonth and my heart goes out to the people of #Ukraine. For those who are trying to understand the events, I must recommend the reporting of Terrell Jermaine Starr who is currently in Ukraine and providing context that is incredibly insightful, given his understanding of the country and the broader story in that part of the world. I met him via Twitter several years ago and was happy to recommend him for the show Blackademics TV on KLRU-TV Austin.
Day 25 of #BlackHistoryMonth and it’s a good day to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen.
“The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During their years of operation, 1940 to 1946, 996 pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Approximately 445 were deployed overseas and 150 lost their lives during that period. Sixty-six pilots were killed in action or accidents and 32 were captured and held as prisoners of war.
Day 26 of #BlackHistoryMonth and I’m thinking of someone who also lived through difficult times as a leader in the #CivilRightsMovement, and I know he would be standing up for the rights of the oppressed in the dangerous world we are living in today. #JohnLewis grew up in an era of racial segregation. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., he joined the burgeoning civil rights movement. Lewis was a Freedom Rider, spoke at 1963’s March on Washington and led the demonstration that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He was elected to Congress in 1986 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Day 27 of #BlackHistoryMonth is a tribute to Whitney Houston. In just about every talk I give on #RadicalEmpathy I mention how important it is to be grounded in who you are, because learning to love yourself is the “Greatest Love of All”
In 2013, three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.