Maricopa County Black History Month 2012
On February 16, Maricopa County celebrated its Black History Month to share the culture of African Americans. February is African American History Month. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. This year’s theme is “Continuing our journey and striving for excellence.”
Donna McHenry, Chair of African American Knowledge Network, made the opening speech which was followed by a posting of the Colors to honor the fallen Deputy Sheriff William Coleman. William Coleman was shot and killed while responding to a burglary call in Anthem on January 8, 2012. Deputy Coleman had served with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for 20 years.
Yvonne Reed, County Elections Director of Communication, emceed the event that featured the keynote speaker Art Hamilton, former Arizona House of Representative, who was also the first African-American and only Arizonan to be elected President of National Conference of State Legislatures.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Max Wilson, Board of Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Fulton Brock, County Manager David Smith and County Diversity Director Ed Guerrero spoke respectively before the soulful singing of “ Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Heather Jenkins. Yvonne Reed then narrated a very insightful video presentation featuring Black history in Arizona.
These encouraging words marked the event. “Diversity is important in Maricopa County, education, background, geographic locations, marital status, military experiences, religious beliefs, social, economical ties. Diversity maximizes all these in the workplace,” Chairman Max Wilson said.
The celebration hit a climax when keynote speaker Art Hamilton took the stage. Captivating, entertaining, innovative, funny, Art Hamilton brought a mix of passion and relevancy to issues of politics, business, the economy, family and the importance of education.
He said, “When people ask me about Arizona, when people ask me about the state where I was born 64 years ago, when people attempt to tell that this is the state that they believe ‘we are all ugly,’ my response to that is ‘no’. We, from time to time, have been drunk, but we are not ugly, because the reality is no matter how difficult the day has been, what we have proven is our capacity to get up even better.”
Hamilton’s speech had won a lasting applause and the event ended in an atmosphere of cheerful spirit after a short introduction of the succeeding chair person E. Lamont Leonard of the African American Knowledge Network.