The Edmond Sun


February 25, 2013

Character, opportunities mark fresh starts in Oklahoma’s, nation’s black history

EDMOND — February marks the celebration of Black History. This practice was established in 1926 as a week-long observance by African-American historian, scholar and educator Carter G. Woodson in honor of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. The second week in February was chosen because it commemorates the birthdays of both Douglas, an abolitionist who fought to end slavery in America; and Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery as 16th president of the United States. In 1976, then U.S. President Gerald Ford officially designated Black History Week as a month-long celebration.

When it was first established, Black History Month celebrated and acknowledged the trials and triumphs made by African Americans during their struggle for independence and recognition. It was a time to remember and honor those who fought and died to secure human rights for African Americans.

Today, 87 years later, America continues to use this set aside time to pay homage to those African Americans whose pioneering and resilient spirits helped shape our country.

In addition, this is also a time for America to gauge the progress that we as a nation are making in terms of equality and justice for all citizens, regardless of race. It is my belief that while the progress has been slow, it has indeed been steady. So much so that we as a nation can celebrate living African Americans who are continuing to make history. Just last month, our first African-American President of the United States was sworn into office for an historic second term. That swearing-in took place nearly 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and on the national day of observance of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Americans, along with citizens from across the world, applauded this historic occasion because it was a testament to how far we have come in addressing prejudices and embracing the unique characteristics of all people who live in this great nation.

Here in Oklahoma, the progress toward equality and justice is also steady. Our state represents a microcosm of the nation that is heading toward creating a more unified community in which, to paraphrase the words of the late Rev. King, “people will no longer judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This progress is evidenced by recent events in our state Legislature.

Last month, T. W. Shannon was elected as the first African-American Speaker of the House, Tom Colbert was sworn in as the first African-American Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court; and David Lewis became the first African-American Presiding Judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. And while all of these men are African American, it was not the “color of their skin” that garnered these prestigious designations; rather, it was the content of their character, their dedication to their professions and to serving the citizens of this state, and their commitment to excellence.

If the past has taught us nothing more, it has taught us that anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background has the ability to achieve greatness if they are willing to serve and if they are given equal opportunity to learn, grow and prosper. These achievements are certainly points of pride for all citizens of Oklahoma.

As Americans, we all should pause and reflect on the tremendous accomplishments African Americans have made to our community, state, nation and world. By doing so, we aren’t just celebrating Black history, we are celebrating American history.

KENT J. SMITH JR. is president of Langston University.

Text Only
  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tax deadline and no reform in sight

    The annual tax filing deadline, which comes next Tuesday, provides a good opportunity for tax reform advocates to decry the current law’s increasing complexity and inequities, and to urge enactment of a simpler, fairer system.

    April 10, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results