Inter-Club Council teaches African-American history through parade, rally
Special to The Monitor:
As Black History Month came to a close, the streets of Montana and Copia were filled this past Saturday with JROTC groups, fraternities, sororities and church organizations, and about 40 members of Fort Bliss’ 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 1st AD band.
The theme for this year’s Inter-Club Council Black History Month Parade and Rally was “African-American Women in Culture and History.” Around 300 people attended the event, including those from Fort Bliss.
“Fort Bliss’ involvement in the Black History Month celebration is pivotal because we make up a large portion of the African-American community in El Paso,” said Staff Sgt. Micheal McKie-Smith, a member of the 1st Armored Division and the motorcycle group, Ruff Ryders. McKie-Smith and other members of Ruff Ryders rode their motorcycles during the parade while wearing their black RR vests.
“We appreciate the participation of the Fort Bliss community and how they always support this parade,” said Parade Marshall Alice James-Sellers, a retired director of the compensatory education program for Ystleta Independent School District. “The only reason this activity has been able to thrive is because of the people who are behind it, and the parade probably wouldn’t do as well without them.”
According to Inter-Club Council President Carl Robinson, the parade footprint was where the African-American community resided before the Civil Rights Movement. And it was during the racial segregation of the 1940s that an African-American woman by the name of Mary Webb raised money through bake sales to purchase land and build Mary Webb Park, located on 3401 East Missouri Ave. The park, which was built because African-American children did not have a park to play in at the time, was where the festivity took place following the parade Saturday.
Performances by groups such as The Rock Faith Center Miming Kingdom Business and speeches from distinguished women such as Parade Grand Marshall Frances G. Hill and retired El Paso Independent School District teacher Minnie Gage highlighted the celebration. Various booths surrounded the area, encouraging applicable attendees to register to vote, educating passers-by on historic African-American figures and offering food such as turkey legs, hot wings and fried cat fish. One vendor, Dr. Justus Opot, brought handmade jewelry from his home country, Kenya.
“Black History Month makes me proud to come from Kenya,” said Opot, who is currently a general doctor in Juarez, Mexico. “It means freedom and sharing our history and since I arrived here, I have more pride about where I’m from.”
Robinson said that aside from the entertainment, the purpose of the parade and rally is to educate the community about African-American culture in both national and local history.
“It’s a continuing process to educate young African Americans in this day and age,” said Robinson. “A lot of African-American history is not taught in Texas public schools, but I think that many El Paso schools do a very good job in highlighting Black History Month with guest lecturers and other programs that help educate the children. It’s important to know where we came from, where we are today and where we are going in the future.”
Minnie Gage stepped on to the main stage during the rally and urged attendees not only to enjoy the celebration, but to commemorate the African-Americans who paved the way for today’s minorities.
“Think about Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice; they were black men and women who made it to the top,” said Gage. “Some of you don’t know what you’re going to make out of yourselves, but you won’t make anything out of yourselves unless you get serious and say, ‘I can make it.’”
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