"Facing the Rising Sun: Striving for Dignity and Respect" was the theme of Howard Middle School’s 2018 Black History Month program.
“Black history is a part of American history, and we are all important,” Howard Principal Dr. Charlene Stokes said. “That’s what makes our country special.”
“Everyone, no matter what creed, race, religion, gender you are, we need to walk in dignity and respect,” she added.
Stokes hopes the students got a glimpse into the past so they learn their history.
“It gives them a sense of pride to hear a little bit about their history, but it also helps them see themselves in some of these great figures that have come before them,” she said.
Stokes said learning their history allows the students to grow.
She wanted the students to take heed of the night’s theme to go forward walking in dignity and respect.
“A lot of times, leaders don’t carry themselves in a dignified and respectable manner so it’s important for our students to remember that those virtues are very important,” Stokes said.
Orangeburg Mayor Pro Tem L. Zimmerman Keitt, the guest speaker, motivated the students to continue to celebrate black history even after February.
“We are black every day, every week, every month,” she said. “Don’t ever forget who you are because you are a beautiful people.”
“Who are we?” Keitt asked the students.
She recounted the numerous black civil rights leaders, writers, musicians, artists and more.
“We have so much talent,” Keitt said. “We are the lawyers, the doctors, the astronauts. We are somebody!”
She told the students to remain vigilant because with growing technology, “Discrimination and segregation has become more sophisticated.”
“You see the computers you’re using; it’s turning us into slaves,” Keitt said. “You’ve got to be very smart, and you do not let it turn you into a slave.”
She told the students they must also support one another.
“We are our worst enemies,” Keitt said. “We victimize one another, we rob one another and even murder one another.”
“Our young people are caught up in a vicious cycle of drugs, teen pregnancy, high unemployment, high dropout rates, and we will stop blaming other folks for all of our problems,” she added. “We must combine our collective forces to move forward.”
She encouraged the students to exercise one of their most important rights, the right to vote.
“It is up to you to go to every election and vote because your children will suffer later on,” Keitt said.
She pushed for everyone to attend city and county council meetings, school board meetings and more so that they are able to voice opinions on issues and have a say in the decisions that affect them.