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ASALH Luncheon Shines Light on Black Achievement

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/26/2014, 3 p.m.
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

Only 30 percent of all Americans have a college degree, he said at the February 22 event. Eighteen percent of blacks, 14 percent of Latinos, 55 percent of Asians have a college degree and two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 do not have a college degree.

"Today, to get a good job, you need a post graduate education," he said. "The vision for every child is to think well and compute well. I want you African Americans to watch your thoughts because they become your words, words become actions, actions become habits and habits become character. And character becomes your destiny, dreams and values."

Hrabowski spoke glowingly of his grandmother who although she had a limited education, defied the voting restrictions imposed by whites in requiring prospective black voters to answer questions about the Constitution.

"My grandmother studied the Constitution to pass the test she needed to be a voter," he said. "Every time she took it, they flunked her. They provided three questions. She collected them and had people research the answers. She passed the third time. She is to be celebrated today. I stand on her shoulders."

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ROASA President Sharon Parker at the 2014 ASALH Black History Luncheon

"When students ask me why they should vote, I say, 'How dare you!'"

A video titled, "We are Philanthropy: African-American Voices in Giving," framed the issue of generosity in a compelling manner. Guests heard from men and women like noted art collectors Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Maureen and Roy Roberts, Glenda Price, Deborah Santana, Brickson Diamond, Dr. Bob Ross and Virgil Roberts who give their "time, talent and treasure" to worthy causes.

Sometimes, giving could be as simple as helping a young person pay for college, mentoring a child or in the case of Dr. Ross, leveraging his philanthropy by encouraging donors to build a Boys & Girls' Club in an impoverished community.

George Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, presented a White House proclamation to ASALH Executive Director Sylvia Cyrus.

In a letter to ASAHL, President Barack Obama lauded ASALH's work.

" … We must (remember) that while many came to our shores to pursue their own measure of freedom, hundreds of thousands arrived against their will. Through centuries of struggle and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied."

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Author Simeon Booker at the 2014 ASALH Black History Luncheon

"This year's theme, 'Civil Rights in America,' invites us to reflect on the integral role civil rights — and the struggles to achieve them — have played in shaping our country's history. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, let us be reminded of the magnitude of hard-won progress, of the link between racial equality and equality for all, and of the work still before us to right the wrongs of history and make our world anew."

ASALH officials used the occasion to unveil the U.S. Post Office's new Shirley Chisholm stamp. Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman unveiled the replica of the stamp.

"She was un-bossed and unbowed and joins an illustrious group. Few of us will ever have the opportunity to run for president and serve in Congress but we can fight for the issues she fought for and is still present," said one speaker of the late Congresswoman.