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 take place all month long, from February 1 to March 1. Here are some major events in Tyler open to the general public.
Inaugural Black History Month Gala hosted by the Texas African American Museum
On February 19 at 6 p.m., guests can attend a fundraising gala at the Texas African American Museum to learn about a time of judgment and healing from the past.
Dr. Khalilah Camacho-Ali, author, actor, producer and prolific speaker, also known for being the former wife of boxer Muhammad Ali during some of his greatest and greatest fights, will be the guest speaker at the event.
LaToyia Jordan, a board member of the Empowerment Community Development Corporation, which works with the museum, said Camacho-Ali will be an impactful speaker at the event that has a lot to say, Jordan said.
Camacho-Ali has been honored to receive awards and honors from numerous institutions: an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Christian Southern University of Indiana, a Distinguished Service Award from the United Negro College Fund, the National Push for Excellence Citation from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the first Sister Roberta Thorpe award at Cotton Plant, Arkansas and many more.
Camacho-Ali’s most recent international trip raised funds and interest for the Sweet Homes orphanage in Pakistan. While there, she visited Pakistan Air Force Academy, Asghar Khan, Risalpur. During her visit, Khalilah flew a Super Mushshak aircraft on a training mission since she is also a qualified pilot with over eight hundred flight hours.
His 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 on Camacho-Ali’s many life experiences, with practical suggestions for dealing with the future.
At the event, guests will be seated at their tables with the opportunity to mix and mingle with others. At 6 p.m., the program will begin with the Texas College Choir providing the music for the event.
Dinner will be served and Camacho-Ali will speak. Jordan said it would be a time for all to reflect and learn about black history.
The event, to be held at Hollytree Country Club in Tyler, is the first of its kind hosted by the museum. Jordan said the planning had been in place for months.
“To finally see it happen and that it’s going to be a reality for the community, not just for the East Texas area, but for Texas in general,” she said.
Tickets start 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, starting at a table of patrons for $499 and under, bronze at $500, silver at $750, gold at $1,000 and title at $5,000. A silent auction will also take place. For more information, contact [email protected]
The money collected during the gala will be used for the maintenance and renovation of the museum buildings.
Black History Month celebration organized by the library
The Tyler Public Library will also be hosting a Black History Month celebration on Thursday, February 27 at 7 p.m. at Tyler’s Liberty Hall.
This year’s presentation will focus on The Cut, a historic neighborhood in Tyler proper, and will be presented by retired teacher, counselor Larry Wade, who was also a principal of 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 in East Texas.
“Black history is our history. It’s been an integral part of Tyler’s upbringing and it’s important that we preserve that history for future generations,” Wade said.
Citywide program hosted by the African American Cultural Events Committee
The African American Cultural Events Committee also hosts its annual citywide Black History Month program on February 26 at 6 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden. Tickets are $30 each, and funds raised will go toward scholarships for African-American seniors in East Texas who are graduating from high school and to advocate for sickle cell disease awareness.
The committee, which also hosts community events during 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 that events were needed to celebrate and commemorate Black History Month, with appropriate 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 featured, a catered buffet, and guest speaker James Mobley, a Tyler native who has recently wrote a children’s book to show that success is possible. Mobley often visits Tyler to invest in the northern part of town and to help build houses with his business partner.
African American Cultural Events Committee Chairman Gregory Buckner encouraged the general public to attend.
“We really worked hard and a lot of people are still scared, you have the omicron (different variations), but no matter what, you gotta go,” Buckner said. He added that holding events that also raise funds to help underserved communities is one way the committee works to educate his city.
A community choir will perform at a Black History event
There will also be a free event on Sunday, February 27 at Liberty Baptist Church. The fourth annual Black History event “Let’s Go Back to the Old Times” will feature a community choir learning old gospel songs from the 1970s and 1980s.
East Texas legends who have served their community will also be recognized at the event. In years past at this event, Black business owners who had businesses in the area for over 40 years were honoured; another year, East Texas Black directors were honored; and another year, pastors who have been pastors for more than 40 years were honored.
Kenneth Butler, a gospel radio station host and organizer of the event, said previous events had seen the attendance of as many as 500 people. Last year’s event was postponed due to the virus, but Butler said the fourth annual event will be held under CDC-recommended guidelines.
“The city invites itself. Everyone is invited,” Butler said. “It’s our heritage. This is our fight and our successes too. That’s uniting our people, that’s what (Black History Month) means to me.