A month for black history

February 07, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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A month for black history

Black History Month should not be celebrated in the shortest month of the year, said Dirren Bell, 16, of Hagerstown.

"It should be a month with 31 days," he said Saturday.

"I hear what you're saying," said North High educator Leon Brumback, who was giving a Black History month workshop at Bethel Gardens Community Center.

Brumback explained the reason.

Black history was first observed during the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation that freed American slaves and Douglass wrote a book about his harsh experiences in the pre-Civil War south.


In 1976, the holiday was extended and the country began celebrating Black History Month, Brumback said.

About 40 young people turned out for the workshop, sponsored by Brothers United Who Dare To Care Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to steering young people from the Jonathan Street community in the right direction.

The group has given four other workshops since November on everything from learning how to study to avoiding alcohol and drugs, said Treasurer Eddie Brooks.

Most are held on Saturday nights, a time when youth in the neighborhood are vulnerable to the surge in drug dealing going on around them, he said.

Brumback began his workshop by announcing a 20-question quiz, an idea that drew some groans at first.

But by the end, they knew the answers to questions like, "Name the city and state where the first slaves arrived in America."

The answer: Jamestown, N.Y.

After the quiz, Brumback described important pioneers in black history and told his students to match them with figures he brought from his own personal collection.

They learned that reformer Sojourner Truth once spoke in Clear Spring.

Each of the pioneers overcame the disadvantages of being born into slavery, he said.

"Even though we're in 1998, you can still be a pioneer," he told the students.

One person that stood out in several of the students' minds was Dr. Charles Drew.

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1904, Drew turned down a professional football career to become a medical doctor.

He founded the country's first blood banking system and revolutionized the storing of blood plasma, saving thousands of lives during World War II.

A tragic car accident claimed his life in 1950, but Brumback said he might have been saved if the hospital that treated him had the proper blood plasma on hand.

"If you're leaving today knowing one more thing than when you came than it was worthwhile," Brumback said.

The young people said they enjoyed the workshop, quiz and all.

"It was a good thing to do for the community and the kids," said Missy Chung, 12. "I learned about a lot of important black people that I didn't know of."

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