Cheverly Women's Club Host Black History Month at the American Legion

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Amongst the highlights of this year's Cheverly black history month held on Sunday, March 4th was the visible presence of a diverse group of young people. Of noticeable spotlight were African American young folks, who are making their communities better by being involved in artistic programs that are aesthetic and authentic.
Allotted a spot to display their artwork in one corner of the big hall of the American Legion in Cheverly, the young African American Artist made their work visible and exhibited works of arts that were worth their price and of artistic value.

You cannot miss Shaymar Higgs a Maryland -based African American fine artist, who through his artistic freedom takes us through the artistic path of an imaginary voyage to Africa. He brings the African continent to the doorsteps of his community and helps his community reflect their roots and culture a home away from home.
He must be given credit for the very close replica of African made goods he produced with great finesse and craftsmanship.
He is entrepreneurial and his work brings hope for peace, and a chance to reflect on the positive side of the African Culture and a heritage that has survived generations.

The exhibited works of arts included custom-made quilts, handbags and accessories, bracelets, framed paintings and a unique collection of other embroideries in a variety of ways.

Shaymar and his colleague artist are also providing a positive outlet for kids in the communities and neighbourhood to engage in creative expressions via fine arts for empowerment, the building of self-esteem and the promotion of creative culture.

He has often challenged kids to create perspectives in arts on their own which led them to provide positive energy in the community. Shamar and his colleagues have worked hard to rejuvenate the community and bring young people together via a special arts and Skateboarding painting session where they have successfully intertwined skateboarding outdoor games and sports in parks with the power of arts to give young people a chance to build their self-esteem, engage in arts that fosters community harmony and peace and a supportive creative environment. He feels that graffiti arts as a medium has been misinterpreted as invoking violence amongst a black culture and has rallied his colleagues to give a new meaning to graffiti arts by sending out messages of peace, love, hope and using vibrant colours thus making street painting and arts vibrant and meaningful.

Speaking to Shamar at the Cheverly Black History Month, I came to realize that he finds art as a way to also make a subtle critique about the socio-political issues that impact the African American communities, often with explosive caricature and artistic satire that beacons our curiosity and promotes awareness. His arts talk about the slave trade and he has found art as a way to reflect too on his culture and the history of slave trade and ancestors who were also craftsmen. Some of his themes are power and politics, money and economics.  He tells Tom and Jerry Stories in arts and creates stereotypes of African American Culture from cartoons that he had enjoyed as a child. In his arts, Shamar says he triggers a discussion and talks about 'how materialism kills us and the culture of money' that is killing people instead of the values for humanity.


The Musicians who were summoned this year were familiar faces to the American Legend Cheverly Women's Black History Month. They are the  'Voice Redeemed' band, who honoured the call to again perform this year. They are an effective two-man band with one playing as a vocal artist and another a piano-man. Through their praise and worship songs, and Christian songs they set the stage throughout the program and their gospel songs became the refrain of the entire program.

What a fitting way to portray the African-American history, and Black History Month with Christian songs. The Civil Rights iconic figures and it's revered, respected, well-known and widely acclaimed peace activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr himself, appealed greatly to the populace and pricked the moral conscience of the nation, based on his Judeo-Christian values.

And Dr. King who was also celebrated on that day (alongside with Barrack Obama and Rosa Sat), used his Christian values to plea for peace, justice, freedom and equal treatment.

The energy of the musicians to show their faith was demonstrated in most of their songs. Take for instance in one of their songs in which that energy was infused with optimism:
'This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it  shine',

This was so uplifting. It connotes that ray of hope and resilience, that splinter of hope and faith they have held on to. It is a hope emerging from the current and past struggles of African Americans and a hope fueled with optimism. It reminds many of the atrocities in the South and in many places around the US against African Americans and how songs of praises were used during the marches to secure the rights for which so many had prayed, marched and shed blood. At the event in Cheverly early this March, the musicians again revealed the devotion to Jesus and God for deliverance as having been a large part of the African-American experience. These Christian songs and their faith continue to serve as a powerful force in the African-American community. For many African Americans,  their Christian faith and turning to the Bible has helped and continue to serve as a source of comfort and a pacifying force in the African-American community and provided strength and hope for the people.
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Only God is able. It is faith in Him that we must rediscover. With this faith, we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism."

Lillian J. Wilson who chairs the Cheverly Women's club, gave a warm welcome to participants to yet another Black History month indicating that it was sponsored by the Cheverly women's Club. She recognized the 'Voiced Redeemed' music band for their opening songs.

Lillian Wilson then introduced Pastor Lillian Smith from the United Methodist Church, Cheverly, to lead a prayer session. She ended her prayers saying: 'Lord help us never to give up, help us to fight for future generations, and dear Lord help us to continue to build bridges through different cultures and different generations so that your kingdom can come here and forever. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.'

Lillian Wilson called on participants to sing together the song 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' which is The Black National Anthem (1900)

with words by James Weldon Johnson and Music by John Rosamond Johnson

'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Lilian Wilson further introduced Joyce Lang and Joyce expressed her thanks and appreciation to all for coming. She says that 'it's nice to see all the smiling faces'.  On October the 17th, 2019, Cheverly Women's Club will be celebrating it's 100 years. She went on to say that 'Some of us feel that we have been here the whole time, maybe close but not so close". She mentioned that because of the preparation ahead of the Cheverly Women's Club centenary celebrations there will be more activities lined up than in previous years. She outlined many programs leading to the preparation of the 100 years celebration coming up in the year. She also said Progressive Cheverly will co-host a joint Potluck meeting.

Joyce introduced one of their flagship kids program for children known as the 'Peace Camp', an initiative of the non-profit 'Little Friends for Peace' and supported by the Cheverly Women's Club.

MJ Park's Little  Friends for Peace also performed and showcased what the organization does at the peace camps to help kids and grow the seeds of peace.
MJ says 'we must be the change we want to see' quoting from Gandhi.
She loved teaching peace in communities and across schools and from an early age of activism she was challenged by the climate of fear around the world to step up to promote and build peace.
She says 'when you take guns away, you replace them with tools to help the young people'. (Referencing the shootings in US school).
She maintained that 'we have to answer the violence with skills for peace and help revive our brains. We need to be compassionate and loving,  and that's what we do at peace camps. Peace camp interrupts this violence with peace'. She further mentioned that Little Friends for peace is a diverse community. MJ then called kids on stage to demonstrate a peace circle a role played a taste of peace camp activities.

When Joyce's daughter Cindy took the stage,  it was to read aloud a book that has preoccupied her mind for far too long.  A book that has influenced her thinking and understanding about African American young boys and about bringing peace to the community.

Cindy read the book "Crown and Ode to the Fresh Hair Cut" by the artist Gordon C. James.
Cindy says "I love this book because it was illustrated by somebody who has local roots. Gordon James a professional artist and they were both classmates in high school".
She said that 'as a professional School Councillor, one of the ways to bring peace in communities is to understand each other better'. She acknowledged that after reading the book, she got a clearer idea of what it meant for an African American to get a haircut.  She says the book helps in bringing peace in communities as it creates a great depth of understanding and helps in communities and people understanding each other better.
Cindy is not the only one singing praises for the book. She mentioned that the book has got many awards and reviews and it is still racking up more awards.
Alongside the gorgeous, lush and artistic illustrations of the book are the powerful messages of hope, the building of self-esteem, dignity, and the transforming and illumination of the young African American who enters the doors of the barbershop. Clearly, the importance of the neighbourhood barbershop is also celebrated in the book Crown and Ode to the fresh cut.

When Cindy read the book, she smiled at its amusement and clarity and her smile was contagious because the book is indeed amusingly beautiful. We laughed and smiled alongside Cindy, often at the beauty of the words from its ebullient illustrations and an adornment of poetry mixed with prose.
Turning around and observing the nodding of heads and smiling faces from the African American community in that big hall of the American Legend in Cheverly, it occurs to me that Gordon's book was so relevant and really hit home for many African Americans .

Then it was time for the young African American politician Julian Ivy to take the stage. He reaffirmed King's impact and mentioned that without the civil rights movement, it won't have been possible to have your grandfather and who had your father who allowed him and made it possible for him to stand on that stage today and give this speech. He goes on to say that
"So when we talk about civil rights, when we talk about racism and white supremacy, and how history is revised, it's so important that we talk about the whole history because people sacrificed for us to be here at this moment where we are and I want to encourage everyone to keep sacrificing to keep pushing the envelope  to keep pushing individuals to the point where they may slightly be uncomfortable. because the one we get beyond that threshold then we can actually make progress.
he bemoaned the loss of King and extolled his legacy. He said that that today there is a statute for MLK in Washington DC 'but when he was alive, he was hated, when he was alive his family was threatened, when he was alive he sacrificed so that now in his death he is immortalized because it is clear that he was right and that he stood for what was right even when America was n't ready for that message and even America hated him, he stood for what is right and I am challenging everyone to stand for what is right and I am will accept that challenge as well. He is so grateful to be there in 2018 and the first African American to represent his Ward at the Cheverly Town Council.

Julian Ivy also acknowledged the role of Black History Month and the efforts of king saying that 'we are still making that history, so let's keep on fighting, let's keep on coming together and let's make this community one'. He made an emotional appeal at the end drawing from the painful experiences of his ancestors and grandfather (his mother's father), whom he said went to war twice because he was treated better as a soldier than in his community. He wanted to reaffirm and acknowledge them all and the fact that people had to sacrifice for him and others to have these opportunities. He said that he will have to keep on sacrificing for the next generation to have another opportunity.

Lillian then called on Josephine Morning, the Chair leader of the Prince George's county serving women Conference. She took a cue from the previous speaker Julian Ivy on the importance of Martin Luther King and how King helped to establish the African American Church.

Joyce Lang called Andrew Greene on stage to make a presentation. She introduced him to the program as a friend of peace who has come all the way from his home country Sierra Leone and has been within the peace circles in Maryland.

Joyce said Andrew, of course, has many talents but I guess this time he is going to present poems which is one of his many talents.
Andrew Greene took the stage and thanked the organisers in commemorating another Black History month which he says is also relevant to his home country Sierra Leone with its history of slavery. He said he has often been inspired by Dr King and has been inspired over the years and followed the peace lessons and practices of MLK during his peace work and efforts in post-war Sierra Leone and around the world.
He dramatized one of his poems entitled my 'Teenages' which reflect the struggles, hope and optimism in growing up during the war eras. He said this poem also symbolizes everyday struggles and challenges teens around the world face at various stages of their lives from 13 to 19. He called on stage kids to perform and dramatize his poem below.

VII. Reflecting on Childhood
My Teen ages

Thirteen is the first born
Of all my teen ages,
Merging into imminent thorns,
The sufferings scarcely encountered before the start of these ages.

Fourteen a second born,
That craves for better adaptation
Like a newly born babe,
Breaking loose that once tightened breath anon
Embracing cheerfully, the dreadful, worldly notions.

Fifteen a third born
And now experience briefly relieves naivety,
For that's the blow of the first horn,
My experienced age has brought to eternity.

Sixteen is the fourth born
None the stranger than its sister teens,
Lessons and warnings it bournes,
Right into my ear, it dins.

Seventeen is the fifth born
And slowly becomes the brain,
My teen ages have borne
Right through my shrouded train.

Eighteen is the sixth born,
Leaving me sit in pain,
like a pest-eaten bunch of corn,
That leaves its owner with no gain.

Nineteen is the seventh and last born
Of all my teen ages,
Strewed with roses and thorns,
Emerging from my foresight of future ages.

He also recited 'The Peace Pole' which he noted was based on the World Peace Prayer Society's efforts to distribute and plant peace poles to remind people of the importance of peace.
Andrew also noted that his book is online for sale based on themes of 'War, Peace, Ebola and hope' and proceeds go to his non-profit B-Gifted Foundation of Sierra Leone


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