Dubuque’s Multicultural Family Center and the Dubuque Black Men Coalition came together at Inspire Café on February 17th from 6:30-9:00 pm to celebrate Black History Month and to reflect on the need for unity.
According to Sarah Petersen, Assistant Director of The Multicultural Family Center, approximately 60 guests were treated to refreshments, trivia prizes, and the location of Inspire Café through a donation from The Multicultural Family Center. An original poem titled “Conducted,” a recitation of Maya Angelou’s And Still, I Rise, a portrayal of Kathryn Johnson, and an educational presentation about black history by Ernest Jackson were featured acts of the night.
Inspire Café provided a warm intimate space with a makeshift stage, projection screen and microphone for presenters and speakers playing background music created by Black Americans. The crowd created a feeling of unity and hope.
Ernest Jackson, an operations manager at John Deere Dubuque Works, is a part of the Multicultural Awareness Group within the John Deere company. He helps to organize Brown Bag Lunches (BBU) through John Deere and presented his Black History Month presentation during the BBU meeting. Another effort that the Multicultural Awareness Group supports is the Dubuque Black Men Coalition.
Jackson explained how integral it is for all races in a community to come together. He said, “We are all in this together. It takes a little time for people to recognize that what affects one group, affects all groups and our country as a whole … diversity is about all of us.” Jackson explained, “engaging in politics and awareness of what’s going on in our country” is important for young people to do, and noted, “young people are very engaged in social media but are not engaged in the key decisions that are affecting our country.”
Jackson thinks young adults want to break stereotypical traditions to pull away from the history of violence and societal problems, but he finds this problematic because he believes the value in standing up for social issues disappears. However, Jackson hopes to see young people begin engaging in local politics and activist groups to “become leaders that we need to make a better country.”
The theme of unity across races is also a value that Trinity Massey finds important. Massey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Dubuque Hempstead High School, was approached by her English teacher about performing in the show. Her teacher’s encouragement inspired Massey to choose Maya Angelou’s work because it spoke to her. She said, “[The poem] connected with me… it was relatable.” Massey was extremely worried about the separation of races that she has observed in the Dubuque area. “Segregation is over, so why do we segregate ourselves?” Massy wondered and continued, “You see Hispanics hang out with Hispanics, you see Asians hang out with Asians, you see Blacks hang out with Blacks. If segregation is over why do we continue to (do) it, get mad and be hypocritical? I want that to be something we are aware of.”
Massey concluded with a thought regarding the importance of recognizing our current society and encouraged those around her to step up.
“I associate [with all people] because that is what our 21st century needs to be, diverse… If we want to make a change than we have to try.”
By: Sara Albertsen