Black History Month Closes With Service Award Luncheon

by Samuel Rowland


Black History Month may be weeks behind us, but one last event ended this celebration of black history with a delicious and thought-provoking bang.

WCC’s Black History Month event calendar culminated on Feb. 28,  in the Dr. Julius Ford Black History Month Outstanding Service Award Luncheon. Named after WCC’s former long-time Vice-President, who was also a guest of honor and speaker, the plaques were awarded to two members of WCC’s faculty and staff who have served our community for many years while exhibiting exemplary values, character and achievements.

The recipients this year were Judy Rodrigues, a respected member of the staff at the Viking Café, and Professor Mark Hanna, a professor in the Respiratory Care curriculum, who retired in 2016 and is now living in Austin.

The keynote speaker was our Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Tiffany Hamilton. Her speech served as a reflection of the theme for all the events of this month: “African-Americans in Times of War.”

Hamilton had an interesting take on the theme, citing one of the Oxford Living Dictionary’s alternate definitions of war as “a sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition.”

By this definition, she stated that African Americans were still at war today, against entrenched systems of injustice, citing the industrial-prison complex, food deserts and underfunded school systems, as just a few examples.

“Black History is American History, so wherever you go, shine your light and promote what you stand for: your heritage, your background and your culture.” — Glenetta Phillips, Black History Month Committee Co-Chair

To extend the idea, she called on people to take up activism, becoming the soldiers in this war.

“Are we going to feed complacency,” said Hamilton, “or counter that with courageous action.”

The other speaker of note was Dr. Ford himself, who received a standing ovation at both the beginning and the end of his speech. His speech praised how much the school has grown both under his watch and after his retirement. Dr. Ford ended his speech with a message for our current student body, describing students as his “favorite constituency” and gave them advice.

“You must take advantage of the opportunities available to you,” said Dr. Ford. “That is the greatest honor you can pay your ancestors: to be able to stay in school, make contributions to yourself, your community, our nation and the world.”

WCC President Dr. Belinda Miles made the closing remarks, a local pastor made a benediction over the food and even Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins stopped by for a bite and a chance to reconnect with Dr. Ford.

This event officially ended  Black History Month celebrations on campus, but Professor Glenetta Phillips, one of the Black History Month Committee Co-Chairs had this to say on whether anything was really ending.

“It is the last day of February, however, it is not the last day we are celebrating Black History,” said Phillips. “Black History is American History, so wherever you go, shine your light and promote what you stand for: your heritage, your background and your culture.”

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