Our Black Leaders
The historical civil rights movement may have come and gone, but the effort for new civil rights continues.
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The only black woman in the state senate, Margaret Rose Henry continues a legislative focus on problems in poor communities. She has sponsored bills that have identified health discrepancies in neighborhoods affected by industrial pollution, and she has established an Office of Women’s Health. She has sponsored bills that restored voting rights to felons who have made restitution, as well as a needle exchange bill to combat drug addiction and the spread of disease. Her kinship care bill provides help for families who care for family members in need.
Raye Jones Avery
Raye Jones Avery founded Christina Cultural Arts Center and the charter school Kuumba Academy in Wilmington partly to stress the cultural contributions of African-Americans. “We teach a brand of activism through the study of people like [Paul] Robeson, [Shirley] Chisholm and [Cesar] Chavez within the prism of drama and other art forms,” she says. At CCAC Avery has instituted a program aimed at producing black teachers to serve their community. And CCAC has joined the HOPE Commission in developing community researchers, who will interview Wilmington residents about violence in their neighborhoods. That information will be turned into plans for safer communities, in part through music, video and drama.
Rev. Lawrence Livingston
The Reverend Dr. Lawrence Livingston wants people to understand and appreciate their history, so his Mother African Union Church memorializes the black experience through its interactive Spencer Heritage Hallway. Stations such as “Out of Africa” depict conditions on slave ships and “Middle Passage” demonstrates the harsh life of slaves. The hall is followed by reminisces of Wilmington’s August Quarterly, the oldest African-American religious festival in the country, and the church’s own history.
Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery’s roots in segregated Gastonia, North Carolina, informed her vision for Delaware’s schools. “We were basically a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood that nevertheless understood the importance of a good education,” she says. “We were expected to do well, and considering school as anything other than cool was not a negotiable option.” Such values guide Lowery today. “We have to educate everyone, not just children, but parents and community leaders, too, if we are to be successful. We have to accept that not all parents are in a position to actively participate. Yet we must rely on those parents to at least instill and reinforce the importance of education for their children at home, regardless of economic status. We’ll teach the math and English when they get to class.”
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