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LBWCC hosts Black History Month Program

Never give up. Use your energies in a constructive way. Know that you can make a difference in spite of any disability or the color of your skin. Have dreams and goals, but know it takes time, patience and a lot of work to make them happen.

That was some of the wisdom shared by the four panelists who were part of the Black History Month Program at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Greenville on Tuesday.

Jerome Gray, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture and a former educator; Curtis Jackson, teacher and counselor at Calhoun High and a motivational speaker; Richard Moultry, a 25-year retail sales veteran from Pike County and Butler County native Dennis Mullins, retired military veteran and automotive worker, shared their personal experiences and insights as African-American professionals.

Gray recalled the election of Wilcox County’s first black sheriff in the early 80s, in a county where, prior to 1965 and the Voting Rights Act, no blacks were able to vote.

“Leadership was provided there by a disabled American vet. He couldn’t find work but he used his energies to organize fellow blacks in positive ways . . . that day has never left me as a lesson in how you can make a difference,” Gray said.

Moultry, who attended segregated schools until the age of 10, recalls the improvement in his fortunes that came with integration.

“The facilities were better; there were more opportunities for a higher quality education. I went from a group of us having to share one microscope to walking into a lab filled with microscopes. It was culture shock, but those were good changes that promoted positive growth,” Moultry said.

Jackson reminded attendees to never forget obstacles can be overcome, using educator Booker T. Washington as an example of triumph over adversity.

“Booker T. Washington toiled under brutal and uncompromising slavery but was determined to secure an education at any cost,” Jackson said.

“He walked 300 miles to go to college – and there were no Pell grants, no scholarships, no loans. He worked as a janitor because he knew there was dignity in all forms of labor . . . and this is the message I try to convey to my students. It takes time, patience and a whole lot of energy to accomplish your dreams.”

Mullins advised those listening to “Never give up.”

“If someone can show you where you’re wrong, then change. If they can’t, then that is their opinion. Why let their opinion hinder you? Keep going. Keep rising,” Mullins said.

Other highlights of the program included LBWCC student Tankiya Coleman performing an original monologue she wrote from the perspective of a slave, and Jackson’s stirring recreation of D. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which earned him a standing ovation.

Three LBWCC students were awarded certificates for their Black History Month essays. Adrienne May took first place honors; Kathy Smith won second place and Michelle Bowen was the third place winner. More than 60 students participated in this year’s essay contest.

A reception followed the program, held in the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center.