By Patricia Moncure Thomas, Principal of Browns Point Elementary School
Story in February school newsletter
February is Black History Month. Sure it would be wonderful if there was no need to set aside one particular month for the celebration of African-American history. The same statement holds true for other ethnic and cultural groups. But, until this history becomes a part of the culture of our education, both inside and outside of schools, we have some catching up to do by increasing our knowledge regarding the roles our very diverse populations have played in making the United States and our world a greater place. If we could look at the events of our history through the diverse groups involved in that event (i.e. World War II), we would find that His...Story is really Our…Story.
There have been many past reasons for Our...Story not being told. Large ones have been the actions of discrimination, the legacy of slavery and racial separation which limited the formation of relationships. Getting to know and respect each other does not mean always agreeing, but knowledge can bring greater understanding of our connection and dependence on each other.
My philosophy is not to blame or shame, nor do I have all the answers. But I hope to reinforce that discrimination in any form cannot be accepted. It is up to us as individuals and as a community to make a commitment to eliminate this disease from our world. It starts with me, but does not end with me. I made a personal commitment to speak up for change, honor diversity, ally with others, and not overlook incidents of human rights violations simply because those incidents did not directly hurt me. Offending and/or hurting my neighbor does likewise to me.
I am an educator who works for student improvement and for the community. But, I do not confine myself within the boundaries of a particular community for I feel that the issues we face must be dealt with on many different fronts…in my home…my school, my district, my community, my city, my world. Yes, I am sure you get the point that it is the need to face issues that I must be willing to take on. Likewise, I know that I must first be willing to start on the smallest scale….with me and my thoughts, reactions and lack of knowledge about people who look differently than I.
My goal is to deliver a consistent message supporting our diverse populations throughout the year. It is up to each of us to first know who we are inside before we can truthfully deliver that supportive message to others. Self-education is key.
Knowing self is a continuous growth process. Educating self about the history of others strengthens our message. Getting to know and respect others as human beings will always be my recommendation for successful individual and community growth. When diverse people come together, getting to know and learn more about each other; relationships are formed. Relationships coupled with knowledge are our best defense against "discrimination and separation". Black History Month is a tool to help us get there. Use it wisely.
The right side of the Browns Point office display case features Principal Pat Thomas' s family research and connection to slavery, plys the family's first meeting with white Moncure descendents of the slaveholders. The school dedicated the left sideof the case to black historical authors, educators and prominent citizens.
The Black Historicial Society & Museum group of Kitsap County created both panels working with Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle. Panel on the left:
- Features local black history - Kitsap County during WWII when about 10,000 black citizens moved to the NW, working as laborers and domestics in the Puget Sound Shipyard and other government facilities. They lived in segregated communities, one of which was called Sinclair Heights which was where Quincy Jones lived and came to love music. He is in one of the photos on Panel 1 (left).
- African Americans were allowed to work in the civil defense industry after numerous protests, etc. led by Asa Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) who was a leader in the African American civil-rights movement and the American labor movement. He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly Negro labor union. In the early civil-rights movement, Randolph led the March on Washington Movement, which convinced Franklin D. Roosevelt to desegregate production-plants for military supplies during World War II. In 1963, Randolph was the head of the March on Washington, which was organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his I Have A Dream speech. Randolph inspired the Freedom budget, sometimes called the "Randolph Freedom budget", which aimed to deal with the economic problems facing the Negro community, particularly workers and unemployed Negroes.
Also on this panel is photo of Tuskegee Airman, Al Colvin, longtime Bremerton resident, councilman, businessman; plus other Sinclair Heights community activities. Now deceased.
One woman, Lillian Walker (also lived in Sinclair Heights) died Jan. 4, 2012, was named a "WA State Legacy" which comes through the WA Secretary of State's office.Her life story became a book with a copy in the paced placed in the archives/libraries at the capitol in Olympia. http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacyproject/oralhistories/lillianwalker/.