The Parthenon

Collaboration session prompts discussion of future black history celebration

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Prominent community members brainstormed ways to extend commemoration of Carter G. Woodson, father of black history, into the narrative of Huntington’s Black History Month Wednesday in the Memorial Student Center basement.

The discussion, led by Burnis Morris, Carter G. Woodson professor of journalism, Alan Gould, John Deaver Drinko Academy executive director and Maurice Cooley, associate vice president of Intercultural Affairs, included community influencers such as Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Marshall Provost Gayle Ormiston, the Rev. Reginald Hill and Gerald Kelly, Woodson’s great-great-nephew.

“Woodson, despite his great achievements, feared being forgotten,” Morris said in a presentation about the historian’s accomplishments. “Perhaps he was onto something. That’s why we’re here today.”

Gould, Cooley and Morris initiated the concept of a conversation between community leaders hoping they would be willing to participate in the planning process.

Woodson clearly wanted year-round observance of black achievements and their inclusions in all history books. The fact that we often observe black history for one month means we have much more remaining.”

— Professor Burnis Morris

“Woodson clearly wanted year-round observance of black achievements and their inclusions in all history books,” Morris said. “The fact that we often observe black history for one month means we have much more remaining.”

Participants in the conversation suggested programs, initiatives, monuments and forums to create a list of ideas for honoring Woodson’s Huntington legacy. Suggestions included several educational programs for all levels, Marshall student and Greek involvement, collaboration with West Virginia State University and documentary and theatrical productions.

Morris, in his presentation, referenced the mayor’s recently proclaimed devotion to a renaissance in Huntington. Such a rebirth includes various projects for developing Huntington as well as plans to expand the diversity of the city.

Williams proposed a series of events throughout Black History Month that would honor Woodson and a day permanently designated as Carter G. Woodson Day in February.

“It would proclaim that day as very prominent in Huntington,” Williams said. “We would be proclaiming what Dr. Woodson started and how we were able to build upon it in the future.”

Gerald Kelly, Woodson’s great nephew, said he wishes he could feel more of Woodson’s presence in Huntington, and the way to do so is through education.

“I do try to think about what can I leave like he left,” Kelly said. “Anything that can help the youth of today, but it’s hard to reach them.”

Kelly emphasized a need to encourage children to become police officers, lawyers and doctors rather than sports stars or musicians.

“We can explain to them that there’s more to life than just sports, there’s other things that you can contribute to mankind besides playing sports,” Kelly said. “I didn’t even know about Carter G. Woodson until my mom told me, and they don’t teach it in schools here really. More education will put peoples’ eyes on it.”

Morris, Gould and Cooley will assemble a panel of community members to evaluate and discuss the list. They will narrow the ideas down and decide which concepts they plan to initiate for years to come.

“If there’s any place in America that should recognize (Woodson’s) contributions permanently,” Cooley said, “it should be right here in Huntington.”

Codi Mohr can be contacted at [email protected]

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