Black History Month
This Black History Month, we are celebrating the beautiful diversity of our VOA family. We will be sharing stories from our donors, staff members, board members, volunteers, and corporate partners throughout the month.
We recognize that the power of diversity should be celebrated all year long - and plan to do just that - but we are also thankful this month is set aside so we can specifically honor African American contributions to VOA's 125-year history.
Anna Cornelius, Residential Family Shelter, VOA-NCNN
What black history means to me?
Well, being biracial is a struggle even now. I needed to examine my roots to understand why I felt different so I could move forward in my life.
Knowing where I came from and the struggles opened up my heart for growth. Now, each generation starting with me is filled with positive change and growth. Which means we love in spite of, we move forward in spite of, we give in spite of.....
God has truly blessed me with two amazing twin daughters. Destiny Williams has sickle cell disease and has blood transfusions every month in the Bay Area. Her name is Destiny because I named my twins according to their movements in the womb. Destiny was smaller, very active and doctors had informed me she had sickle cell .....so I felt Destiny was destined for great things!
She is beating the odds. She's into sports, and some days she has struggles, but she perseveres.
Then there's my Serenity Williams, who is 5 minutes older. My calm, patient and gentle child.
Serenity is my artist. At 5 years old, I noticed her artwork actually looked like cartoon characters from the Sunday Newspaper. The funny thing is they act just like their names!
I teach my daughters Destiny and Serenity each generation should learn from the prior. Take the bad and make it good. Take the good and make it better. Take the better and make it great.
I hold no history back from my girls. We learn from our past and use it to make our present better.
February 26, 2021
La Shelle Dozier, Executive Director, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
This quote from Spanish philosopher George Santayana has always resonated with me. While the history of African Americans in this country spans centuries of horrible mistreatment, there is also a rich story of resilience, determination, survival, and even joy. It is so important to understand that despite the tragedies suffered by African Americans there are so many stories of triumph.
Along the way, our ancestors shared many stories and teachings with their generations which created the traditions of our culture that we celebrate today with our families. As I think about my life as a child growing up, I feel extremely fortunate to have learned so much from my parents - teachings and traditions that I proudly share with my children and which I hope they will also share when they have children of their own.
In recent years, there have been too many incidents of injustice perpetrated against Blacks in America. Is history repeating itself? Can we still celebrate Black history when so many Black people have suffered unjustly?
Yes, we can, and that is precisely why we must celebrate Black history. Because when our unabridged stories about how we’ve overcome are told, they create awareness, understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and respect. Most importantly, Black history teaches the realization that our diversity makes us more alike than we are different, and that is definitely worth celebrating.
February 22, 2021
Antoinette R. Smith-Miller, Food Services Supervisor, West House PSC, VOA-NCNN
"Why Afro-American? Why Black? Why Colored? Today we are Afro-Americans, yesterday we were Black, and then we were Colored. The world sees us as the color of darkness, the color of pain, the color of struggles, and the color of dirt. But the real question is; how do we see ourselves? Well I see myself in the image of God! God said that we were made in his image so we should see ourselves as strong, beautiful, unique, loving, kind, thoughtful and most of all loved, because we were made in the image of God who loved us so much that he gave up his only son to die for us so that we may have eternal life. So today we are Afro-Americans, yesterday we were Black and then we were Colored. But most of all we are made in His image."
- Antoinette R Smith-Miller
February 16, 2021
Charles Graham, VOA-NCNN Donor
I was born in Richmond, Va and we moved to Hampton when I was about eight months old. Hampton had a number of German and Italian POWs placed there during WWII. Our movie theater was segregated with whites seated in the auditorium and blacks in the balcony. I remember seeing either German or Italian POWs going into the auditorium with white locals in a matter-of-fact manner while we proceeded to the balcony.
Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) was a black college of note for its academic excellence and many prospective black students desired to attend because of its reputation for outstanding academics and mathematics/science curriculum. Although the students were black, there were several white faculty members on staff. Booker T. Washington, born a slave, graduated from Hampton and upon being awarded his degree, was appointed to a staff position on campus. Years later, Washington went on and founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
I was the youngest of five children and my parents were insistent that the ticket to success for blacks was being well educated and possessing a strong work ethic. Although public schools taught nothing about black history in those days, my parents saw to it that their five children would know and appreciate our heritage. I was always rather rebellious and did not appreciate all the discussions about higher education and working hard. After WWII ended, we moved to rural New Jersey for a year and then on to (Corona) Queens New York, one of the five boroughs comprising New York City. It was a quick subway/El trip from our home into Manhattan. Many show business performers (black and white) resided in Corona for that easy access. Dizzy Gillespie lived on my block and Louis Armstrong, on the next street.
New Jersey schools were my introduction to integrated classrooms. There were very few blacks in our New Jersey neighborhood but considerably more in New York. When we first moved to Queens, our neighborhood was predominately Italian but after a couple of years or so, whites started moving out and blacks and other minorities moved in. After high school, I joined the US Navy and after basic training, was assigned to a ship based in Norfolk, VA just a few miles from Hampton.
The impact of racial segregation affected me significantly because so much of the earlier Hampton experience was vague and simplistic due to my youth and lack of any sophistication. Over the years I had many, many jobs in a wide variety of fields with no consistency of experiences or growth in specific fields. I always seemed to secure employment rather easily and if I saw something that appeared to be better than my present job, I went after it. I did get married and had three children and continued my college education at night obtaining a B.A. in the Humanities.
When I wound up in the field of corrections almost by accident, I soon realized that all the many jobs that placed me in different work experiences were a tremendous asset in dealing and relating to inmates. Rarely did I ever encounter a person with whom I could not easily communicate based on my "been there, done that." I had finally landed in a field of employment for a rewarding career working in prisons, our training academy, departmental headquarters, and the parole division. In my estimation, all those seemingly rambling jobs in so many settings prepared me well for that arena.
I am truly grateful. Again, growing up black in America was by no means a piece of cake. But all of my experiences coupled with my family upbringing prepared me quite well for the task.
February 15, 2021
Kia Phillips, Case Manager Supervisor, Veteran Services, VOA-NCNN
"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
February 12, 2021
Steve Green, VOA-NCNN Board Emeritus
I was born on October 26, 1945. I can remember being in grammar school and being the only black student in my class up through 6th grade. Each year from 4th to 6th grade history classes would study slavery. I can remember the teacher would cover this part of American’s dark history, and I would feel all the white kids in the class turn and look at me! I was ashamed, because history only painted us in a negative light i.e. slaves had sad faces, and dark complexions. I did not at that time have a positive role model as it relates to history. The teachers I had never made a statement about how wrong slavery was!
My first year of college (American River College), I took a Black History class, that was the first time I heard about black Leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman W.E. B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth, Susie King Taylor, Tuskegee Airmen; this was an awakening!!
In the 60’s I read and heard about Rosa Parks, Muhamad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Dr. King, Arthur Ash, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Barbara Jordan, John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, Thurgood Marshall, Desmon Tutu and Dick Gregory. I finally knew that there were Black Heroes that I could look up to.
The truth of Black History was denied to me in grammar school and high school. In college I was exposed to a higher level of Black History awareness.
Black History Month is essential to not only educating the Afro-American population, but to educate all people no matter their race.
Black History Month makes me be proud to be an Afro-American. I look forward to each year’s accomplishments by Black Americans.
February 11, 2021
Joe Stinson, Retired Assistant Publisher, Sacramento Observer, VOA-NCNN Board Emeritus
As a black man, I had the pleasure to serve on the board of VOA for nearly 30 years. To provide leadership to an organization that serves all people without regards to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion was the most enjoyable time of my life. My skills, knowledge and perspectives were welcomed and embraced to create new programming that helps people in all neighborhoods reach their full potential. The celebration of Black History serves as a reminder of the important contributions African Americans have made to journalism, education, science, technology, construction, agriculture, the arts and so much more. These accomplishments benefit all of us.
February 10, 2021
J. Hodge Johnson, District Manager of Starbucks, friend of VOA
February 9, 2021
Rhonda Mower, Vice President - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, VOA
An Invitation to Brave Space
Together we will create brave space.
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” —
We exist in the real world.
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be.
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side.
by Micky ScottBey Jones
February 5, 2021
La Shonda Viney, Accounts Pay Lead, VOA-NCNN
Black History Month to me is an opportunity to recognize the phenomenal black pioneers that came before us, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, James Balwin, Frederick Douglas, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and so many others. This month, we celebrate and reflect the shoulders on which we stand. As we continue to break barriers. We are also reminded to be proud of something that we were once taught to be ashamed of. With honor, I celebrate black history month!
February 3, 2021
Shelli Clark, Program Manager, Residential Family Shelter, VOA-NCNN
Black history month to me means a time of celebration. Growing up we celebrated Black History Month just like any other American holiday. It was a time of celebration and teachings so I take pride in being able to continue the traditions of my youth. I am hopeful a time of peace and equity will come once understanding is had. In order for anything to move forward there is always a push and a pull, which means we all play a part.
February 1, 2021
Dedra Russell, Program Manager, Transitional Housing for Families, VOA-NCNN
Growing up I was seen as different, not a face but a color, a minority in the eyes of the majority. My family values have always been and will forever be instrumental in my life. I am grateful that I am no longer different but unique..my color is beautiful and my majority is love and most importantly I am me.