Black History Month is an annual celebration of African American history that honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who helped make the United States what it is today.
In East Texas, celebrations are happening the entire month from Feb. 1 to March 1. Here are a few major events in Tyler open to the general public.
Inaugural Black History Month Gala hosted by the Texas African American Museum
On Feb. 19 at 6 p.m., guests can attend a fundraiser gala at the Texas African American Museum to learn about a Time of Reckoning and Healing the Past.
Dr. Khalilah Camacho-Ali, author, actor, producer and prolific public speaker who is also known for being former wife of boxer Muhammad Ali during his biggest and major fights, will be the guest speaker at the event.
LaToyia Jordan, board member of the Empowerment Community Development Corporation, which works with the museum, said Camacho-Ali will be an impactful speaker at the event who has a lot to say, Jordan said.
Camacho-Ali has been honored to receive awards and accolades from numerous institutions: an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the Christian Southern University of Indiana, a distinguished service award from the United Negro College fund, the Push for Excellence National Citation from Rev. Jesse Jackson, the first Sister Roberta Thorpe Award in Cotton Plant, Arkansas and many others.
Camacho-Ali’s most recent international trip helped raise funds and interest for the Sweet Homes Orphanage in Pakistan. While there, she visited the Pakistan Air Force Academy, Asghar Khan, in Risalpur. During her visit, Khalilah flew a Super Mushshak airplane on a training mission since she is also a qualified pilot with more than eight hundred flight hours.
Her visionary program, “Setting Goals for the Next Journey,” speaks to students of all ages as they prepare for their life’s work. The presentation draws from Camacho-Ali’s many life experiences, with practical suggestions for dealing with the future.
At the event, guests will be seated at their table with an opportunity to mix and mingle with others. At 6 p.m., the program will begin with the Texas College Choir which will provide music for the event.
Dinner will be served and Camacho-Ali will speak. Jordan said it will be a time for all to reflect on and learn about Black history.
The event, which will be held at the Hollytree Country Club in Tyler, is the first-of-its-kind hosted by the museum. Jordan said planning has been in place for months.
“To see it finally come to pass and that it’s actually going to be a reality to the community, not just for the East Texas area, but for Texas in general,” she said.
Tickets begin at $50 each and are not available at the door. COVID-19 guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention will be followed.
Table sponsorships are available, beginning at a patron table for $499 and under, a bronze level at $500, silver at $750, gold at $1,000 and title at $5,000. A silent auction will also be held. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Money raised at the gala will go to upkeep and building renovations of the museum.
Black History Month celebration hosted by library
The Tyler Public Library will also be hosting a Black History Month celebration on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at Liberty Hall in Tyler.
This year’s presentation will be about The Cut, a historical area in Tyler proper, and will be presented by Larry Wade, retired teacher, counselor, who was also principal in public schools for nearly 40 years, serving in Tyler, Longview, and Marshall independent school districts. He is also the founder of the National African American Historical Society. His recent efforts include finding and restoring abandoned Black cemeteries around East Texas.
“Black history is our history. It is an integral part of the shaping of Tyler and it is important that we preserve this history for future generations,” Wade said.
Citywide program hosted by African American Cultured Events Committee
The African American Cultured Events Committee is also hosting its annual citywide Black History Month Program Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden. Tickets are $30 each and funds raised will go toward scholarships for East Texas African American seniors who are graduating high school and to advocate for sickle cell awareness.
The committee, which also hosts events in the community on World Sickle Cell Awareness Month and World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, canceled last year’s event due to COVID-19. This year, the committee decided events were necessary to celebrate and commemorate Black History Month, with proper COVID guidelines recommended by the CDC.
At the event, there will be an unveiling of the annual Black History Month stamp with the Post Office, poetry will be presented, a catered buffet and guest speaker James Mobley, a Tyler native who recently wrote a children’s book to show success is possible. Mobley often visits Tyler to invest in the north part of town and to help build homes with his business partner.
President of the African American Cultural Events Committee Gregory Buckner encouraged the general public to attend.
“We have really worked hard and a lot of people are still scared, you have the omicron, (different variants), but no matter what, you must get out there,” Buckner said. He added holding events that also raise funds to help underserved communities is a way the committee works to educate his city.
Community choir to perform at Black history event
There will also be a free event Sunday, Feb. 27 at Liberty Baptist Church. The fourth annual “Let’s Go Back to the Old Time Way” Black History Event will consist of a community-combined choir who will be taught old gospel songs of the 1970s and ‘80s.
East Texas legends who have served their community will also be acknowledged at the event. In years past at this event, Black business owners who had businesses in the area for over 40 years were honored; another year, East Texas Black principals were honored; and another year, pastors who have pastored for over 40 years were honored.
Kenneth Butler, host of a gospel radio station and organizer of the event, said previous events have seen attendance of no less than 500. Last year’s event was postponed because of the virus, but Butler said the fourth annual event will be held under CDC-recommended guidelines.
“The city is invited. Everybody is invited,” Butler said. “It’s our heritage. It’s our struggle and our successes as well. It’s the unification of our people, that’s what (Black History Month) means to me.”
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