29 DAYS OF FEBRUARY
Celebration of America’s Diversity
FEBRUARY 21th 2020 (Empowering)
First black female director nominated for
Oscar and Golden Globe Awards
FEBRUARY 20th 2020 (Transcendent)
MARIE VAN BRITTON BROWN
Inventor of the home security system
Marie Van Brittan Brown was an American inventor. She was the inventor of the home security system (U.S. Patent 3,482,037) in 1966, along with her husband Albert Brown. Inspired by how long it would take the police to arrive in her neighborhood, Brown invented the first form of a home security system. The system included a device that enabled a homeowner to use a television set to view the person at the door and hear the caller’s voice. The home security system that she and her husband invented allowed the monitor to be in a different room, and all of this was possible via a radio controlled wireless system.
If the person viewing the images on the monitor did not feel safe they could press a button that would send an alarm to police or security. Although the system was originally intended for domestic uses, many businesses began to adopt her system due to its effectiveness. The system also used a voice component to enable Brown to speak to the person at the door. If the person had criminal intent and tried to enter the house forcefully, the police would be notified with the push of a button. For any expected visitor or welcomed person, the door would be unlocked via remote control. For this invention of a system, she received an award from the National Science Committee.
FEBRUARY 20th 2020 (Historic)
MARVIN GAYE’S “WHAT’S GOIN ON”
Background vocals recorded with Two NFL Detroit Lions
“I’ll do it if you sing with me,” Gaye reportedly told the two football stars.
“He says, ‘Lem, you take this part,’ ‘Mel, you take this part,’ ”
After friend and musical partner Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor, and the things that are happening in the world a grieving Marvin Gaye recorded his future hit single “What’s Goin’ On,” having Detroit Lions’ athletes Lem Barney and Mel Farr lay down vocals for the song’s intro. Gaye later met with Lions’ coach Joe Schmidt to propose the idea of playing for the team, which Schmidt turned down.
The record starts with good-natured conversation, the voices of 3-4 young men seemingly at a house party. Two of those voices belong to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Barney and Farr. The background vocals are Farr and Barney with Gaye on a second track backing his own lead vocals. Farr and Barney were in the studio less than a day working on their parts. Ironically, considering the trio of Detroit stars on the record, Gaye was forced to issue it on a private label. Barry Gordy an Motown Records felt it was too controversial and not “hit material.” Gaye had 100,000 copies made and sent to radio stations and record stores across the country. It was a gamble, but one that paid off.
FEBRUARY 19th 2020 (Pioneer)
First Black Writer-Editor In Mainstream Comics
Christopher James Priest born James Christopher Owsley is an American writer of comic books who is at times credited simply as Priest. He joined Marvel’s editorial staff in 1979, working for Paul Laiken as a managing editor on Crazy Magazine and becoming the first African American editor in mainstream comics. He next became assistant editor for Larry Hama on the Conan titles. Owsley made his professional debut as a writer in 1983 with issue #1 of The Falcon miniseries and was made full editor of the Spider-Man comic books from 1985 to 1986. Priest is also a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist music producer who has written and produced dozens of tracks for himself and others.
As a writer, Owsley/Priest worked on the series Conan the Barbarian, The Ray, Steel, Deadpool, and Black Panther vol. 3. He co-created the series Quantum and Woody, Xero, and The Crew, among others. After a decade-long absence from comics, he returned in 2014–2015 to write a Quantum and Woody miniseries for Valiant Comics. He was chosen to write the DC Rebirth version of Deathstroke in 2016. Priest contributed a story to the Black Panther Annual #1, released in February 2018.
FEBRUARY 19th 2020 (Trailblazer)
DEATH (PROTO-PUNK BAND)
Band was Punk before Punk was Punk
Death is an American rock band formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1971 by brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. The trio started out as a funk band but switched to rock after seeing a concert by The Who. Music critic Peter Margasak retrospectively wrote that David “pushed the group in a hard-rock direction that presaged punk, today it makes them look like visionaries.” They are seen in many groups as one of the first punk bands in the world.
Death began playing at cabarets and garage parties on Detroit’s predominantly African-American east side, but were met with reactions ranging from confusion to derision. “We were ridiculed because at the time everybody in our community was listening to the Philadelphia sound, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers,” Bobby said. “People thought we were doing some weird stuff.
“I knew those kids were great, but trying to break a black group into rock ’n’ roll was just tough during that time.”
-Brian Spears, Groovesville
FEBRUARY 18th 2020 (Pioneer)
JANE C. WRIGHT
Pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon noted contributions to chemotherapy
Jane Cooke Wright (also known as “Jane Jones” or “Mrs Jane Jones”) was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon noted for her contributions to chemotherapy. In 1971, Dr. Jane Wright became the first woman president of the New York Cancer Society. Dr. Jane Wright analyzed a wide range of anti-cancer agents, explored the relationship between patient and tissue culture response, and developed new techniques for administering cancer chemotherapy. By 1967, she was the highest ranking African American woman in a United States medical institution.
During her forty-year career, Dr. Wright published many research papers on cancer chemotherapy and led delegations of cancer researchers to Africa, China, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. She worked in Ghana in 1957 and in Kenya in 1961, treating cancer patients. From 1973 to 1984 she served as vice president of the African Research and Medical Foundation.
“There’s lots of fun in exploring the unknown. There’s no greater thrill than in having an experiment turn out in such a way that you make a positive contribution.” – Jane C. Wright
FEBRUARY 18th 2020 (Trailblazer)
GEORGE EDWIN TAYLOR
First African American to run for president
George Edwin Taylor (August 4, 1857 – December 23, 1925) was an American journalist, activist, and politician, who was the candidate of the National Negro Liberty Party for the office of President of the United States in 1904. He was the first African American to run for president. Between 1900 and 1904, Taylor was president of the National Negro Democratic League. Southern Democrats were enacting laws that disfranchised most black voters and were imposing segregation through “Jim Crow” laws. It was a time when lynching was creeping northward and when scientific racism was gaining acceptance within the nation’s intellectual and scientific community.
A journalist by trade, Taylor — who lived in Iowa — gained distinction, according to the Tacoma, Wash., Times on Aug. 17, 1904, as a leader in the Republican national convention of 1892, “to which he was an alternate delegate-at-large from his state. The next campaign he was delegate-at-large to the Democratic convention.” “From 1891 to 1910, Taylor lived in Oskaloosa and Ottumwa, Iowa, where he published a national magazine called the Negro Solicitor. During this period he rose to prominence in national black politics, acting as president of the National Colored Men’s Protective Association and the National Negro Democratic League
FEBRUARY 17th 2020 (Trailblazer)
Former Youngest Around The World Solo Pilot
First Black & Jamaican To Accomplish The Feat.
Barrington Irving is a Jamacian-born American pilot who previously held the record for the youngest person to pilot a plane around the world solo, a feat he accomplished in 2007. He is also the first black person and first Jamaican to accomplish this feat. Among his many honors, he holds the NASA Trailblazer Award, the Guinness World Record and the NBAA 2019 American Spirit Award.
He is a graduate of Miami Northwestern Senior High School. He turned down multiple football scholarship offers with his sights set on aviation. He later founded Experience Aviation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering minority youth to pursue careers in aviation.
FEBRUARY 17th 2020 (Trailblazer)
First woman of African-American descent, and also the first of Native-American descent, to hold a pilot license
Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She earned her pilot license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first black person to earn an international pilot’s license. She was the first woman of African-American descent, and also the first of Native-American descent, to hold a pilot license.
Determined to polish her skills, Coleman spent the next two months taking lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris and in September 1921 she sailed for America. She became a media sensation when she returned to United States.
– Mae Jemison (first African-American
FEBRUARY 16th 2020 (God’s Human)
THE SAD DISPLAY OF OTA BENGA
Ota Benga was born in the Congo around 1883 and a member of the Mbuti people, a pygmy tribe. Benga, previously known as Mbye Otabenga, was brought from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States in 1904 by former Presbyterian missionary Samuel Verner to be displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair. At that time, Belgium ruled over the Congo. The Belgian king, Leopold II, sent a militia into the area where the Mbuti lived. A number of people were killed in the conflict including Ota Benga’s wife and children.
An American missionary, Samuel Phillips Verner, spotted Benga and purchased him for several bags of salt and some brass wire. Verner had been sent to Africa specifically to locate individuals to feature in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Verner took Benga to the Bronx Zoo in 1906. William Hornaday, director of the zoo, initially enlisted Benga to help maintain the animal habitats. However, Hornaday saw that people took more notice of Benga than the animals at the zoo, and he eventually created an exhibition to feature Benga.
Benga spent some of his time in the Monkey House exhibit, and the zoo encouraged him to hang his hammock there, and to shoot his bow and arrow at a target. On the first day of the exhibit, September 8, 1906, visitors found Benga in the Monkey House. African-American clergymen immediately protested to zoo officials about the exhibit, Said James H. Gordon. A number of clergymen backed Gordon in defense of the depiction of Benga as a lesser human.
Gordon placed Benga in the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, a church-sponsored orphanage in Brooklyn that Gordon supervised. As the unwelcome press attention continued, in January 1910, Gordon arranged for Benga’s relocation to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lived with the McCray family. In March 1916, Ota Benga ventured out into a nearby wooded area. This was nothing unusual, as he spent much of his free time in the forest hunting and collecting herbs. In the woods, Benga prepared a ceremonial fire. He knocked the caps off of his teeth to restore the pointed ends. He then shot himself using a stolen pistol.
FEBRUARY 15th 2020 (Icon)
“I Feel for You” 1st R&B With Rap Crossover Hit
Yvette Marie Stevens, better known by her stage name Chaka Khan, is an American singer and songwriter. Known as the “Queen of Funk”, Khan was the first R&B artist to have a crossover hit featuring a rapper, with “I Feel for You” in 1984. She was ranked at number 17 in VH1‘s original list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll. She has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. In December 2004, Chaka Khan was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music during the inauguration of its president, Roger H. Brown.
Khan has won ten Grammy Awards and has sold an estimated 70 million records worldwide. She has collaborated with Ry Cooder, Robert Palmer, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Guru, Chicago, De la Soul, Mary J. Blige, among others. In 2020, Khan competed in season 3 of The Masked Singer as Miss Monster. She was eliminated and unmasked in the third episode.
FEBRUARY 15th 2020 (Trailblazer)
to perform title role in Phantom of the Opera
Norm Lewis is an American actor and baritone singer. Lewis has been credited as having “an impressive Broadway resumé” by Playbill. He is perhaps best known for his roles in the popular musical productions of Porgy and Bess and The Phantom of the Opera, making musical theatre history as the first African-American actor to perform in the title role in Broadway’s long-running production of Phantom of the Opera.
On May 12, 2014, Lewis assumed the role of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera in New York, making him the first African American to play the title role in the New York production and the third worldwide. Lewis portrayed Caiaphas in the live televised concert production of Jesus Christ Superstar on April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday. Lewis has played Javert in the musical Les Misérables several times. He first starred in the role in the 2006 Broadway revival, making him the first African American actor to play the role in a professional English production. Lewis is a recipient of the 2014 AUDELCO Special Achievement Award.
FEBRUARY 14th 2020 (Grandmaster)
First Jamaican-American to attain the title of Grandmaster
Maurice Ashley is a Jamaican-American chess grandmaster, author, and commentator. In 1999 he earned the grandmaster title (GM), making him the first black person to attain the title of grandmaster. On April 13, 2016, Ashley was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. Maurice’s sister is world boxing champion Alicia Ashley and his brother is former world kickboxing champion Devon Ashley.
Starting in the Fall of 2012, Ashley was a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and, between 2013 and 2015, Maurice was also a Fellow at Harvard University‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in a joint fellowship at both Harvard’s Berkman Center and the Media Lab at MIT. Currently, Maurice is a Research affiliate at the Media Lab at MIT.
“African continent GMs do exist; but, according to the system of racial classification, I am the first Black GM in history… it matters, and doesn’t matter, all at the same time.”
FEBRUARY 14th 2020 (Garbo-ish)
NINA MAE MCKINNEY
“The Black Garbo”
Nina Mae McKinney was an American actress who worked internationally during the 1930s and in the postwar period in theatre, film and television, after getting her start on Broadway and in Hollywood. Dubbed “The Black Garbo” in Europe because of her striking beauty. Because of the prevalence of racism in the American entertainment industry, many African-American actors and actresses went to work in England, France, and other European countries, where they found more professional opportunities.
McKinney was one of the first African-American film stars in the United States, as well as one of the first African Americans to appear on British television. In Hallelujah (1929), McKinney was the first African-American actress to hold a principal role in a mainstream film; it had an African-American cast. Vidor was nominated for an Oscar for his directing of Hallelujah and McKinney was praised for her role.
FEBRUARY 13th 2020 (Legend)
First black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River
Bass Reeves was an American law enforcement officer. Bass Reeves was born into slavery in the summer of 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons. He shot and killed 14 people in self-defense. Once, he had to arrest his own son for murder. One of his sons, Bennie Reeves, was charged with the murder of his wife. Deputy Marshal Reeves was disturbed and shaken by the incident, but allegedly demanded the responsibility of bringing Bennie to justice.
During the Civil War, Reeves fled north to what is now Oklahoma, and lived with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their languages, until he was freed in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery. He not only arrested the criminals (he once brought in seventeen prisoners at once!) but at night, he’d talk to them about the Bible and about repentance. Was Reeves the real Lone Ranger? https://truewestmagazine.com/was-bass-reeves-the-real-lone-ranger/
FEBRUARY 1th 2020 (Trailblazer)
First African-American woman to enter the U.S. Coast Guard
Olivia Juliette Hooker (February 12, 1915 – November 21, 2018) was an American psychologist and professor. Olivia Hooker, who after surviving a race-related attack on a black section of Tulsa, Okla., in 1921 went on to become the first black woman to enlist in the Coast Guard. She received a master’s degree in psychological services at Columbia University in 1947 and a doctorate in psychology at the University of Rochester in 1961.
“Other people call it the Tulsa riot,” she explained. “It really wasn’t a riot — we were the victims.”
She remembered that when the attacks started, she saw men with torches storming into the family’s backyard and her mother acting to protect her and her three siblings. “I guess the most shocking thing was seeing people, to whom you had never done anything to irritate, who just took it upon themselves to destroy your property because they didn’t want you to have those things,” she said. “And they were teaching you a lesson.
FEBRUARY 12th 2020 (Icon)
First jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music
Wynton Learson Marsalis is an American virtuoso trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammy Awards and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He has received honorary degrees from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami (1994), Kenyon College (2019), New York University, Columbia, Connecticut College, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, Princeton, Vermont, and the State University of New York.
Wynton Marsalis has won the National Medal of Arts, the National Humanities Medal, and been named an NEA Jazz Master. At seventeen, he was the youngest musician admitted to Tanglewood Music. In 1995, he hosted the educational program Marsalis on Music on public television, while during the same year National Public Radio broadcast his series Making the Music. Both programs won the George Foster Peabody Award, the highest award given in journalism.
FEBRUARY 12th 2020 (Trailblazer)
First jazz artist to win Grammy for best new artist
Esperanza Emily Spalding is an American jazz bassist and singer. Spalding was raised in Portland, Oregon, and was a musical prodigy, playing violin in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon at five years old. She has won four Grammy Awards, including “Best Jazz Vocal Album” in 2020, and the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, making her the first jazz artist to win the award.
Spalding has credited watching classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as an integral part of her childhood, and what inspired her to pursue music. Spalding also played oboe and clarinet before discovering the double bass in high school. She sings in English, Spanish and Portuguese. She has described the saxophone player Wayne Shorter, and singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, as heroes. She has also noted her preference for the music of Brazil.
FEBRUARY 11th 2020 (Creator)
ZELDA WYNN VALDES
Creator of the original Playboy Bunny costume
Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was an African-American fashion designer and costumer. She is the creator of the original Playboy Bunny costume.’ Zelda’s sexy-but-sophisticated dresses were worn and adored by Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West, to name a few. Valdes also created a new sexier image for singer Joyce Bryant who LIFE Magazine dubbed “the Black Marilyn Monroe.”
Beginning in the 1960s, Valdes directed the Fashion and Design Workshop of the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited and Associated Community Teams (HARYOU-ACT). Valdes taught costume designing skills and facilitated fabric donations to the student workshops. She was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black design professionals. This group was established with the sponsorship of the National Council of Negro Women. In 1970, Arthur Mitchell asked Valdes to design costumes for his new company, the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Playboy Bunny for a day
Barbara Walters “Ouch” – Circa 1962
FEBRUARY 11th 2020 (The G.O.A.T.?)
SAMUEL L. JACKSON
Highest-grossing actor of all time (Excluding Cameos)
Samuel Leroy Jackson is an American actor and film producer. Jackson has won critical acclaim and numerous accolades and awards. Jackson is ranked as the highest all-time box office star with over $7.1 billion total US box office gross, an average of $89.9 million per film. The worldwide box office total of his films (excluding cameo appearances) is over $16.7 billion. He became the top-grossing actor in October 2011, surpassing veteran voice actor Frank Welker.
After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackson attended the funeral in Atlanta as one of the ushers. In 1969, Jackson and several other students held members of the Morehouse College board of trustees (including a nearby Martin Luther King, Sr.) hostage on the campus, demanding reform in the school’s curriculum and governance. The college eventually agreed to change its policy, but Jackson was charged with and eventually convicted of unlawful confinement, a second-degree felony.
FEBRUARY 10th 2020 (Prodigy)
Most financially successful African-American painter in history
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Notable private collectors of Basquiat’s work include David Bowie, Mera and Donald Rubell, Lars Ulrich, Steven A. Cohen, Laurence Graff, John McEnroe, Madonna, Debbie Harry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, and Johnny Depp. Eight short years. That’s how long it took Jean-Michel Basquiat to secure his legacy as an art world prodigy. He died at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose.
He produced vibrant and emotional canvases with a kind of refined cool reminiscent of improvisational jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Since Basquiat’s death in 1988, the market for his work has developed steadily—in line with overall art market trends—with a dramatic peak in 2007 when, at the height of the art market boom, the global auction volume for his work was over $115 million. In May 2016, Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled painting shattered his auction world record when it was sold for $57.3 million at Christie’s, making him the most financially successful African-American painter in history.
FEBRUARY 10th 2020 (Pathfinder)
First Deaf Black female attorney in the United States
She currently works in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. She is also the first deaf person to work at the White House in an detailee capacity. In an interview, she makes a point that there was a deaf intern working in the White House before her, and that there are currently other deaf people working in less prestigious positions in the White House. Gordon graduated from Howard University in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in political science. At Howard, she was a Patricia Robert Harris Public Affairs Fellow, member of the Golden Keys National Honor Society, and member of the Political Science Honor Society.
Claudia L. Gordon was born in Jamaica. After having sharp pains in her ears, her aunt, who took care of her at the time, took her to a small clinic, as there were no hospitals. She was deaf at the age of eight. She didn’t believe she was deaf because she had been reading peoples lip and thought she was hearing their voice. She faced discrimination in Jamaica because she was deaf. Claudia Gordon has been active in both the black deaf community and the disability community. She was the vice president of the National Black Deaf Advocates. She is also associated with the National Coalition for Disability Rights.
FEBRUARY 9th 2020 (Trailblazer)
First African-American woman to ride across the U.S. Solo
Bessie Stringfield began her cross-country tour at just 19 years old. She flipped a penny onto a map of the country to determine her destination and off she went. By 1930, she became the first African-American woman known to have traveled via motorcycle to all 48 states in the continental United States. She was one of the few civilian motorcycle dispatch riders for the US Army during World War II. Credited with breaking down barriers for both women and Jamaican-American motorcyclists
Starting in the 1950s, she became a nurse but sought to continue her two-wheeling legacy. Police, however, made it clear that they weren’t going to allow a black woman to ride around on her bike and so refused her a license. During the four years she worked for the Army, she crossed the United States eight times. She regularly encountered racism during this time, reportedly being deliberately knocked down by a white male in a pickup truck while traveling in the South.
In the 1950s Stringfield moved to Miami, Florida, where at first she was told “nigger women are not allowed to ride motorcycles” by the local police. After repeatedly being pulled over and harassed by officers, she visited the police captain. They went to a nearby park to prove her riding abilities. She gained the captain’s approval to ride and did not have any more trouble with the police.
FEBRUARY 9th 2020 (Legend)
BETTY REID SOSKIN
Oldest National Park Ranger serving the United States.
Betty Reid Soskin is a Ranger with the National Park Service, assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. During World War II she worked as a file clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all-black union auxiliary. Her main job was filing change of address cards for the workers, who moved frequently. Soskin suffered a stroke while working at the park in September 2019 and returned to work in January 2020.
Back in the 1960s, Betty was a singer songwriter with a voice like Billie Holiday and the relevance of Nina Simone, but she turned her back on a potential career in music, and her songs haven’t been heard for 40 years.
Sign My Name to Freedom is a critically acclaimed memoir and a feature documentary about Betty, her lost music and her experiences confronting housing segregation in the Bay Area of California.
FEBRUARY 8th 2020 (Academics)
HCBU’S & JEWISH ACADEMIA
Jewish Refugees Found Home at HBCU’s
April 8th 1933 affirms the beginning of white-European Jewish academic relationships with African Americans on HBCU campuses. While the most famous refugees, like Albert Einstein, were welcomed into the hallowed halls of Eastern academia, most of these other scholars faced an academic world that was aloof, if not downright hostile. They were the cream of German society, some of the most brilliant scholars of Europe.
“They went to poorly funded black colleges but what they discovered were incredible students.”
There were few opportunities for Jews in countries like Britain and the USSR because these countries feared what Nazi Germany would do to them for supporting Jews. HBCUs were open to Jews because of their ideas of equal learning spaces. They sought to create an environment where all people felt welcome to study, including women.
One was the noted Greek philosophy expert Ernst Moritz Manasse, who found a teaching position at the North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham. Manasse was not prepared for the rigid segregation in the South that his students faced, he later said “I came from a situation of forced segregation where we were victims, and now I belonged not to the oppressed, but to the oppressor. And that was very, very uncomfortable for me”.
FEBRUARY 8th 2020 (Champion)
11 Time NBA Champion
Russell is one of the most successful and decorated athletes in North American sports history. His awards and achievements include 11 NBA championships as a player with the Boston Celtics in 13 seasons (including two NBA championships as player/head coach), and he is credited with having raised defensive play in the NBA to a new level. In his first NBA full season (1957–58), Russell became the first player in NBA history to average more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season, a feat he accomplished 10 times in his 13 seasons.
Even as he won on the court, Russell, an outspoken backer of the Civil Rights Movement, experienced his struggles off it. He was never embraced by Boston fans in the way his white teammates were. On the road it was not uncommon for him to have to sleep in a different hotel from the one the rest of the club used.
Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. In 2010 Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civil honor, from President Barack Obama.
FEBRUARY 7th 2020 (Ground-Breaking)
DR. BARBARA ROSS-LEE
1st AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN MEDICINE SCHOOL DEAN
Eldest Sister of Diana Ross
Barbara Ross-Lee born in Detroit, Michigan is a physician and the first African-American woman to become a medical school dean. After graduating from medical school, Ross-Lee remained in Detroit working at her private practice for ten years. She then took a position with the United States Department of Health and Human Services where she worked on medical education and people of color in medicine. She was the first osteopathic physician to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship.
Growing up in inner city Detroit, Barbara Ross-Lee and her sister Diana shared a fondness for show business, performing with their brothers and sisters in the church choir. But while Diana pursued a career in music and soon to being the lead singer of the “Supremes,” Barbara made her mark in the sciences.
Ross-Lee was born and raised in the housing projects of Detroit, and is the oldest of six children, including sister Diana Ross. Ross-Lee attended Wayne State University for her undergraduate education. Discouraged from majoring in human anatomy and pursuing medicine, Ross-Lee earned degrees in biology and chemistry in 1965. She then joined the National Teacher Corps, where she stayed until 1969.
FEBRUARY 7th 2020 (Trailblazer)
THE MOTHER OF HIP HOP
Sylvia Robinson was an American singer, musician, record producer, and record label executive. She later became known for her work as founder and CEO of the hip hop label Sugar Hill Records. Robinson is credited as the driving force behind two landmark singles in the hip hop genre; “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) by the Sugarhill Gang, and “The Message” (1982) by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; which caused her to be dubbed
“The Mother of Hip–Hop”
Robinson received a Pioneer Award for her career in singing and being the founder of Sugarhill Records at the 11th Annual Rhythm and Blues Awards Gala in 2000. In 1972, Robinson sent a demo of a song she had written called “Pillow Talk” to Al Green. When Green passed on it due to his religious beliefs, Robinson decided to record it herself, returning to her own musical career. Billed simply as Sylvia, the record became a major hit, reaching number-one on the R&B chart and crossing over to reach the US Billboard Hot 100 (#3)
FEBRUARY 6th 2020 (Hero)
DORIS MILLER – NAVY 3RD CLASS
Next U.S. Aircraft Carrier Named After
Doris “Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was an American sailor in the United States Navy. He manned anti-aircraft guns during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 for which he had no training and tended to the wounded. He was recognized by the Navy for his actions and awarded the Navy Cross. On January 19, 2020, the Navy announced that CVN-81 would be named after him, a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier scheduled to be laid down in 2023 and launched in 2028.
The reasons for the naming are twofold: to honor the U.S. Navy’s enlisted sailors and their heroes and to honor the contributions of African American sailors. The USS Miller will be the first aircraft carrier in the history of the U.S. Navy to be named for either.
Miller survived Pearl Harbor unscathed and received the Navy Cross for his actions on that day, the service’s second highest medal for valor, and went on to serve on the escort carrier USS Liscombe Bay. In 1943, Liscombe Bay was attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine during the invasion of Makin island. Miller was declared missing in action after the attack and reclassified killed in action one year later. His body was never found.
FEBRUARY 6th 2020 (Historic)
SUGARHILL GANG – “RAPPERS DELIGHT”
First Mainstream Successful Hip Hop Song
The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 song “Rapper’s Delight” is widely regarded to be the first hip hop record to gain widespread popularity in the mainstream. While it was not the first single to include rapping, “Rapper’s Delight” is credited for introducing hip hop music to a wide audience, reaching the top 40 in the United States, as well as the top 3 in the UK and number-one in Canada.
Their 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap single to become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The first ever rap music song recorded by Hip Hop artists was “Rappers Delight” by a Hip Hop music group called The Sugar Hill Gang, also in 1979, but it came out shortly after the Fatback Band’s own rap record.
Find Your Heritage Month of Celebration
FEBRUARY 5th 2020 (Trailblazer)
In 2017 Founded The Girls Auto Clinic
Patrice Banks founded and owns the Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby, Pa staffed by female mechanics. In 2017, she published Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, which covers the basics of auto repairs, maintenance, and emergencies. Banks was previously a material science engineer at DuPont. Banks attended Lehigh University with a $32,000 scholarship. She initially majored in chemical engineering before switching to material science. Graduating in 2002, she accepted a job at DuPont headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, heading a lab that performed failure analysis on manufacturing equipment. Part of her job entailed climbing towers to check on tanks of Hydrochloric acid.
To make the shop more appealing and convenient for women, she also opened an adjoining manicure-pedicure and blowout salon.
In a 2015 Washington Post op/ed, Banks explained why she became an auto mechanic, trading a six-figure salary, “high heels and an air-conditioned office for boots, Dickies and grime-covered hands”. She had grown “tired of feeling like an auto airhead and getting scammed by the male-dominated car-care industry.”
“I was afraid I was going to be taken advantage of,” she says. “I was tired of feeling helpless and having to go talk to a guy.” – Patrice Banks
FEBRUARY 5th 2020 (Citizenship)
BLACK CHEROKEE FREEDMEN
Cherokee Nation Owned African Slaves
The Cherokee freedmen, descendants of African American slaves owned by citizens of the Cherokee Nation during the Antebellum Period, were first guaranteed Cherokee citizenship under a treaty with the United States in 1866. The Cherokee Freedmen are persons of African ancestry whose ancestors were either enslaved by Cherokees prior to the Civil War or they were free blacks, generally mixed black Indian Cherokees, legally living in the tribe.
There were five so-called civilized tribes, which grew wealthy and powerful, largely because they enslaved people and this was the basis of the wealth and the economy of those tribes. There were big plantations. So there had been slavery in most Indian tribes but it wasn’t based on a color and a lot of the times, a person who had been enslaved, say a war captive, they were adopted into the tribe.
FEBRUARY 4th 2020 (Special Honor)
Only Black Woman Enlisted as a Buffalo Soldier
Cathay Williams (September 1844 – 1893) was an African-American soldier who enlisted in the United States Army under the pseudonym William Cathay. She was the first Black woman to enlist, and the only documented to serve in the United States Army posing as a man. Despite the prohibition against women serving in the military, Cathay Williams enlisted in the United States Regular Army under the false name of “William Cathay” passing herself off as a man. Only two others are known to have been privy to the deception, her cousin and a friend, both of whom were fellow soldiers in her regiment.
More than 400 women posed as male soldiers during the Civil War—most enlisted with their husbands, brothers or other family members. However, it is unknown if any other women served in the military during the Indian Wars like Cathay Williams.
Shortly after her enlistment, Williams contracted smallpox, was hospitalized and rejoined her unit, which by then was posted in New Mexico. Possibly due to the effects of smallpox, the New Mexico heat, or the cumulative effects of years of marching, her body began to show signs of strain. She was frequently hospitalized. The post surgeon finally discovered she was a woman, and informed the post commander. She was discharged from the Army by her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke, on October 14, 1868.
FEBRUARY 4TH 2020 (Richest)
Richest Black & African Man
Aliko Dangote GCON is a Nigerian billionaire businessman, and the owner of the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities in Nigeria and other African countries. Wealth for the three richest billionaires in Africa is 28.8 billion dollars (Aliko Dangote 14.1 billion, Nicky Oppenheimer 7.7 billion and Johann Rupert 7 billion dollars, according to Forbes 2019 billionaires list).
Dangote is ranked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as the 88th-richest person in the world and the richest man in Africa, and peaked on the Forbes list as the 23rd-richest person in the world in 2014.
“I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets [candy] and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.” – Aliko Dangote
Today, the Dangote Group is a multi-trillion-naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Togo. Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. The Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. Dangote has diversified into telecommunications and has started building 14,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables to supply the whole of Nigeria.
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FEBRUARY 3rd 2020 (National Hero)
ANTONIO RUIZ EL NEGRO FALUCHO
Black Hero of Argentina Dies
Antonio Ruiz (El Negro Falucho), national hero of Buenos Aires, Argentina, dies for his country. Second Corporal Antonio Ruiz (died February 3, 1810), was an Argentine soldier. Ruiz, nicknamed Falucho, was an Afro-Argentine soldier of the Independence War. Ruiz fought in José de San Martín’s army. According to the most common story, Corporal Ruiz, born a slave (perhaps in Africa), served in the Regiment of the River Plate and died while defending the colors (white and light blue) of the revolutionary flag (later the Argentine flag) against traitors during a revolt at the fort of El Callao, Peru) on February 6, 1824.
Rather than hoist the Spanish flag, Falucho chose to be shot by the traitors, crying out with his last breath, Viva Buenos Aires! (Long live Buenos Aires!). The Falucho Monument is located in the neighborhood neighborhood of Palermo , Buenos Aires . It is a tribute to that soldier, from the black community, recognized as a hero of the Argentine Independence .
FEBRUARY 3rd 2020 (Historical Event)
Willie Brown Burial Project
The Omaha Race Riot
Willie Brown was the victim of a gruesome lynching in front of the Douglas County courthouse in 1919. The Omaha race riot occurred in Omaha, Nebraska, September 28–29, 1919. The race riot resulted in the brutal lynching of Will Brown, a black civilian; the death of two white rioters; the injuries of many Omaha Police Department officers as well as white and black civilians, including the attempted hanging of Mayor Edward Parsons Smith
A public rampage by thousands of white rioters set fire to the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha. It followed more than 20 race riots that occurred in major industrial cities of the United States during the Red Summer of 1919.
Sensationalized local media reports of the alleged rape of 19-year-old Agnes Loebeck on September 25, 1919 triggered the violence associated with Will Brown’s lynching. The following day, police arrested 41-year-old Will Brown as a suspect. Loebeck identified Brown as her rapist; however, during questioning, Brown stated that Loebeck did not make positive identification, which Loebeck later refuted. There was an unsuccessful attempt to lynch Brown on the day of his arrest.
FEBRUARY 2nd 2020 (SPECIAL RECOGNITION)
RUTH E. CARTER & HANNAH BEACHLER
First African Americans to win Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design for Black Panther
Both Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler were recognized for their work in “Black Panther,” and each is the the first African-American to win Oscars at the 91st Academy Awards https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/91st_Academy_Awards in their category. Ruth E. Carter is an American costume designer for film and television, with over 40 films to her credit, who has mastered the look of multiple periods and genres in envisioning the clothing and overall appearance of a character or performer.
Hannah Beachler is an American production designer. She worked on the 2015 Rocky film Creed, the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, and most recently has become known for the film Moonlight, Beyoncé‘s 2016 TV special and visual album Lemonade.
Hannah Beachler Afrofuturist design direction on the film Black Panther, won her an Academy Award for Best Production Design and making her the first African-American to be nominated in the same category, as well as the first to win.
FEBRUARY 2nd 2020 (SPECIAL HONOR)
First African American Entrepreneur to Develop His Own 4G LTE
Freddie Figgers is an inventor, computer programmer, software engineer, and entrepreneur. He is the youngest person in history to hold a FCC license, which allows him to operate his own cell phone company. Freddie as a newborn was left at the dumpster by his mother. Nathan and Betty Figgers then adopted him. To help his father with the Alziemers disease, Freddie built a shoe with a GPS tracker with two-way communication. When he was 15 years old, Freddie started a cloud computing services company. At the age of 16 years, Freddie started Figgers Communication. By the time Freddie was 24, he had 80 custom software programs built, designed and executed.
Freddie as a newborn was left at the dumpster by his mother. Nathan and Betty Figgers then adopted him. To help his father with the Alziemers disease, Freddie built a shoe with a GPS tracker with two-way communication.When he was 15 years old, Freddie started a cloud computing services company. At the age of 16 years, Freddie started Figgers Communication. By the time Freddie was 24, he had 80 custom software programs built, designed and executed.
FEBRUARY 1st 2020 (SPECIAL RECOGNITION)
First African American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film
The film is based on a letter Kobe Bryant wrote to The Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015 announcing his retirement from basketball.
5 time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant was the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Academy Award in any category for his film Dear Basketball. Current Academy rules call for the award to be presented to “the individual person most directly responsible for the concept and the creative execution of the film. The Academy defines short as being “not more than 40 minutes, including all credits”.
On January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, around 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, en route from John Wayne Airport to Camarillo Airport. It was carrying retired basketball player Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna; her 13-year-old teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester; their parents Keri and John Altobelli, and Sarah Chester; basketball assistant coach Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan. All nine were instantly killed in the crash.
FEBRUARY 1st 2020
GREENSBORO FOUR SIT-IN
Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond
The Greensboro sit-ins were a series of nonviolent protests in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, which led to the Woolworth department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States. While not the first sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement, the Greensboro sit-ins were an instrumental action, and also the most well-known sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement. They are considered a catalyst to the subsequent sit-in movement.
These sit-ins led to increased national sentiment at a crucial period in US history. The primary event took place at the Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth store, now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The Greensboro Four (as they would soon be known) were Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and David Richmond, all young black students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in their freshman year who often met in their dorm rooms to discuss what they could do to stand against segregation. They were inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his practice of nonviolent protest, and specifically wanted to change the segregational policies of F. W. Woolworth Company in Greensboro, North Carolina.