By Cynthia Gibson
LOS ANGELES — The city kicked off its month-long celebration of African American Heritage Month with a virtual ceremony Feb. 4 that paid tribute to African-American entertainers, elected officials and professionals.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said that this was his 21st year taking part in celebrating Black history noting that “we always say to know Black History Month is to know Los Angeles because the majority of the founders of this pueblo, this city, can trace their ancestry back to Africa.”
The event was conducted by Our Authors Study Club and Board of Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis, who is serving as chairperson of the 2022 African American Heritage Month Celebration.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “The Black Family: Black Health and Wellness.”
Performances included 2018 Little Miss African American Nasreen El-Shabazz reciting “Black Statue of Liberty” and gospel singer CeCe Wynans singing “Alabaster Box.”
ABC7 co-anchor Leslie Sykes introduced Living Legend honorees Thelma Houston and the Whispers.
Houston started out in the 1960s performing in gospel music with the Art Reynolds Singers. She is best known for her rendition of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” which earned her the distinction of being the first solo female artist at Motown to win the Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.
Twin brothers Walter and Wallace Scott joined with friends Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson and Gordy Harmon to form the Whispers. Over five decades, the group has earned seven gold albums, two platinum albums, 12 top 20 singles and 40 charted hits.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Awards were presented to the California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Dr. John Griffith and Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor.
Weber is California’s first Black secretary of state and only the fifth African American to serve as a state constitutional officer in California’s 170-year history. Before her appointment as secretary of state, Weber served four terms in the state Assembly representing the San Diego area. She also served on the San Diego school board.
Dr. Griffith is president and CEO of Kedren Health Center in South Los Angeles. He began his career at Kedren in 1981, serving as the chief operating officer for mental health services and was instrumental in launching Kedren’s primary care clinic.
Judge Taylor has served the Los Angeles Superior and Municipal Courts for 21 years and has served on numerous court committees. He is the only judge elected twice to serve as president of the California Judges Association.
Preceding the African American Heritage Month opening ceremonies, a virtual roundtable discussion on Black Health and Wellness was held Feb. 3. Panelists included Cal State Long Beach African Studies Chair Maulana Karenga; Cal State Los Angeles College of Ethnic Studies Dean Julianne Malveaux; Cal State Dominguez Hills African Studies Chair Donna Nicol; Cal State Northridge Center of Southern California Studies Director Boris Ricks; and USC professor Francille Rusan Wilson.
ABC7 News co-anchor Marc Brown moderated the discussion on a wide range of topics, including how to bridge the health care gap in the midst of COVID-19, President Biden’s effectiveness, the impact of social media and the relationship between Black people and law enforcement.
During the two-hour discussion, the panelists gave credit to many Black pioneers in health care and other industries. They also expressed a range of opinions from frustration to hopeful.
“Even enslaved people found ways to have joy,” Malveaux said. “Part of our wellness is to accept, embrace and enjoy our moments. Even as we struggle, we must embrace the possibilities for joy.”