Marshall, Huntington communities recognize start of Black History Month

Black History Month is officially underway after Burnis Morris, Janet Dooley, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and more spoke at the Black History month kick off event Thursday, Jan. 31. The event featured multiple speakers discussing one of the fathers of black history, Carter G. Woodson, as well as highlighting the importance of black history being American history.

“Carter G. Woodson was so much a part of the community a century ago,” said Morris, a Marshall journalism professor and cofounder of the Carter G. Woodson Lyceum. “And many people don’t realize that. They don’t see it. We are trying to fix that.”

The kickoff event consisted of multiple speakers who discussed Carter G. Woodson’s impact on black history, and some speakers shared their personal stories related to black history.

Huntington Mayor Williams chose to recognize the former mayor of Huntington, Joe Williams, in his speech. He thanked the former mayor for giving him a political opportunity.

“In this city, not too often, certainly in those days, is there an opportunity for a black man to reach down to a young white boy and be able to say ‘I’m lifting you up and giving you an opportunity,” Williams said.

Dooley, the director of Marshall’s W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications, explained how she had, in recent years, discovered she grew up surrounded by areas with black history.

“Never once did anyone point to a location and say ‘That’s where the Carter G. Woodson School sat’,” Dooley said. “Every time we drove past this old home, not on one occasion did anyone say ‘That was a plantation complete with slave quarters.’ It wasn’t part of the history.”

Attendees were also able to witness the featured presentation “SNAPSHOT,” performed by Carmen Mitzi Sinnott, an activist and educator who shares her personal story through performances throughout the country.

“SNAPSHOT” walked viewers through Sinnott’s life as she told the audience about how she felt growing up as a biracial individual and without her black father. Sinnott broadcasted a series of scenes covering how she said she believed her father behaved during the Vietnam War, her struggles with friendships in high school, going on a search for her father and more.

She talked about how she felt her father’s presence while she was presenting and that it reminded her how important she said she believes it is to remember black history.

“I got caught up in tears, at one point, to where I couldn’t speak, because it was like I could feel his energy or what it might have been like if he were here,” Sinnott said. “So, yeah, I think it’s important to talk about our ancestors and where they once lived and bring power back to the roots and learn from them.”

Marshall President Jerry Gilbert, Wendell Dobbs, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Media, and representatives for Gov. Jim Justice, Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller were also in attendance to make statements about Black History Month.

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected].