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ASALH Luncheon Shines Light on Black Achievement

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/26/2014, 3 p.m.
An audience of more than 1,000 guests at the 88th Annual Black History Luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in ...
Keynote speaker Freeman A. Hrabowski III addresses the audience at the 88th Annual Black History Luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Northwest on Feb. 22. Photo by Roy Lewis

There is a Zimbabwean proverb which says that "Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."

Members of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) have taken that adage to heart and for the past 99 years, the organization has been on the forefront of the study, research and the dissemination of information about black people in this country.

"If we don't tell, the world won't know," said Janet Sims-Wood, ASALH vice president for membership. "It's important for us to celebrate our history every day and every month. Remember, if we don't tell them, the world will never know."

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GWUL President George Lambert at the 2014 ASALH Black History Luncheon

Keynote speaker Freeman A. Hrabowski III, told an audience of more than 1,000 guests at the 88th Annual Black History Luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Northwest of the importance of studying black history, securing a quality education and honoring the sacrifices of our forebears.

"You have black folks and white folks in this room because everyone needs to study black history because it is important," said Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since 1992. " … The way we think about ourselves, the language we use, the values we hold will, indeed, shape who we are."

Hrabowski, 63, recalled being one of an estimated 1,000 children who took part in the Children's Crusade on May 2-5, 1963. He, along with hundreds of other children, skipped classes and were arrested when they marched in downtown Birmingham, Ala., to protest segregation and the inferior education they were receiving.

On the second day, although the children were non-violent, Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor fire hosed the children, set police dogs on them and arrested many of them before they could meet with the city's mayor.

"I was a 12-year-old in 1963 sitting in the church in the middle of the week which children loved because we weren't in school," said Hrabowski. "I was always in love with mathematics and food. I was young, fat and smart. Dr. King said the child marchers will know the difference between right and wrong. Parents didn't trust the people at the jail and soon hundreds of children were looking out through the bars because we wanted an education. For that, they put babies and children in jail."

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Professor and Author Mia Moody-Ramirez at the 2014 ASALH Black History Luncheon

"Dr. King said what we do today will have an impact on children not yet born. I didn't understand the impact, the profundity. We never know the unspoken impact on children."

King said participating allowed children to develop "a sense of their own stake in freedom," and he later wrote, "Looking back, it is clear that the introduction of Birmingham's children into the campaign was one of the wisest moves we made. It brought a new impact to the crusade, and the impetus that we needed to win the struggle."

Hrabowski said the civil rights struggle of today is "to create a culture where it's cool to be smart."