Last week Marcus Reid, a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, spoke to an acquaintance about his memories of working in the shoe repair shop of his grandfather, the late Eugene Reid Sr., when he was a child. The shop was located on the Square. Reid’s father, the late Eugene Reid Jr., also worked there, as did Marcus’ three brothers. The four brothers didn’t take it seriously at the time, but their father and grandfather did. That little shop, with its distinctive smell, supported two families for many years.
Reid, now chief deputy attorney in Etowah County, spoke at the 17th Black History Celebration Sunday at the Community Center. He was introduced by his daughter Taylor Reid.
Most people, he told those in attendance, want the same things. They want economic opportunity, security in their homes, an opportunity for their children to improve their lot and security for the nation.
“We may disagree on the methods of achieving those ends,” he said, “but the goals are the same for all.”
In the past few years, he said, there’s been a serious decline in race relations in this country and a disturbing division along racial lines.
“Attitudes of bigotry and race prejudice are openly flaunted more than I have seen them in the past 40 years,” he said. “Some may even question why black people continue to warrant a Black History Month in 2017.”
Reid explained that the reasons are primarily two-fold: Because the general public is still unaware of the many contributions of black Americans (including the “ordinary heroes” in the community) and history that is not commemorated and repeated can become lost to the “alternative facts” and “alternative history” that many will promote to advance their own agendas.
Reid said he reviewed the 246 year history of African American slavery in North America and the 100 years following slavery in which African Americans were denied the rights promised to citizens in the Constitution. He went on to relate that it’s only been a little more than 50 years since black Americans received the legal protection to exercise all of the civil rights that should have been guaranteed under the Constitution. During the Jim Crow and segregation era, there were 4,000 documented lynchings, he said, between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II, not including homicides that took place during the Civil Rights era. These were acts of domestic terrorism perpetuated upon the black community in an effort to thwart civil rights activism. Domestic terrorism, he said, is not a new development.
“We continue to celebrate Black History Month to acknowledge the accomplishments of black citizens in spite of all of the obstacles, and to make sure that this history is not lost to those who would seek to promote alternative narratives of history,” he said, and gave as examples the Holocaust deniers and those who would now argue that slavery was not the “cause” of the Civil War.
Over 100 attended the celebration. Effina’s served soul food. Rev. Stephen R. Davis Sr., pastor of St. Paul CME Church, read scripture from the Old Testament. Rev. Roosevelt Parker, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, read scripture from the New Testament. Father James Macy, pastor of St. Charles Catholic Church, said a prayer. Rev. Chris Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church, Eastwood, blessed the food.
City Councilman Jerry Parris read a proclamation proclaiming Black History Month. Another member of the City Council, Sandra Sudduth, who is Reid’s aunt and chairman of the Black History Committee, introduced the master of ceremonies, Jeh Jeh Pruitt, WBRC Fox 6 sports anchor and reporter.
The program was dedicated to the memory of Jewell Carr Greer, who died last year at the age of 101. She served on the first Black History Committee and for many years thereafter. Her relatives attending the celebration included her son, Elton Greer, and a cousin, Charlene Elston.
Members of the Jacksonville State University Panhellenic Council of Greek organizations and residents of the Girls Detention Center passed out programs, helped serve food, served as ushers and gave out door prizes. The East Central Alabama Young Marines, commanded by Dan Long, posted the colors. Samera Dawson sang the National Anthem.
Sudduth said she not only appreciates her nephew speaking, she’s proud of him for talking about the history of African Americans and their journey.
“He did an excellent job,” she said. “So did everyone else who was there. It turned out to be another wonderful celebration. I’d like to thank everyone who attended and helped in any way.”
Other members of the Black History Committee are Jeanne Jordan, who is an honorary member, Ethel Kimbrough, Nell Coleman, Constance Nation, Myrus Weaver, Emily Lipscomb, Freida Morris, Nancy Dickens, Theresa Curry, Glenda Jemison, Rosemary Snead and (USMC ret.) Gilbert Taylor.
Theresa Curry and Freida Morris were in charge of the door prizes.
(Contact Margaret at email@example.com)