*During Black History Month, we pause to salute and reflect on the contributions African Americans have made to the rich fabric that makes up the United States.
There are many untold stories that reveal the best of Americans who stepped up when duty called, broke color barriers, or quietly made their communities better one person at a time.
In tribute, President Obama recently invited six special senior citizens to visit the White House to honor as unsung heroes. These unsung heroes are individuals who strengthen their communities through extraordinary everyday acts of service done with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition.
Among those who visited with President Obama were pioneers in the struggle for racial equality, educators who changed their communities through the classroom, and people who believe that a lifetime serving others is a life well spent.
The honorees were:
Theodore Peters, one of the first African Americans to enter the U.S. Marines and train at Montford Point, NC, after the corps desegregation and a community leader in his South Side Chicago neighborhood.
Gladys Reid, a Cleveland, OH, volunteer who feeds the hungry twice a week and volunteers at local hospitals, often caring for patients who are 20 years her junior.
Velma Lois Jones, the first black classroom teacher elected to serve as president of the Tennessee Education Association and a local leader in the areas of civil rights, politics, community service, and education.
Columbus Preston Holmes, a former class valedictorian, World War II veteran, postmaster, sports commissioner, Selective Service board member, community leader, and active member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mound Bayou, MS, since joining the church 84 years ago.
James “Alley Pat” Patrick, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, radio and television broadcaster, and Atlanta bail bondsman who came to the aid of many jailed activists during the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Marguirette Levere, a church missionary, volunteer, adviser, and role model to her rural Maryland community – roles she filled while tending to daughter Barbara, who has cerebral palsy and has been severely disabled since her birth 77 years ago. Remarkably, Marguirette doesn’t wear glasses or take any medicines at the age of 106.
Stories of African Americans like these honorees do not have a singular narrative, but most contain common threads of resilience and perseverance. These Americans are shining examples of a legacy that keeps our nation strong and makes our country great.
Check out the video below and the full blog post here.
See more coverage of the White House’s celebration of Black History Month
*Actor Elijah Kelley (pictured) is flexing his artistic abilities and recently shocked the film world with his role in “Red Tails.”
But his responsibilities reached further than memorizing a script. Kelley actually penned the theme song, “Light Years.”
“The song embodies the mood of the movie and what it stands for. I was able to craft the track and write the song in a way that I really feel pay homage to the Airmen. I hope that we can push it so that it lives beyond the movie and goes on to do well,” Kelley told The Boombox.
The multi-talented artist not only wrote it, but he produced and performed the song.
“Red Tails” raked in $44 million over the past two weekends, although not quite catching up with Lucas’s $90 million spent.
The 2012 spin of the Tuskegee Airmen story also stars Terrence Howard, Ne-Yo and Method Man. It was also co-written by “Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder.
Ne-Yo’s Feb 2008 mug shot on charges of reckless driving and driving without a license in Georgia – one of the few photos of him without a hat
*R&B singer Ne-Yo says his cast members in the film “Red Tails” would not let up about his receding hairline. In fact, that’s how his co-stars passed the time at a pre-shoot boot camp.
“We would just crack on each other,” Ne-Yo tells WENN. “During the boot camp there was no TV or cellphone, no iPod, so at night all we had was us in this itty-bitty room and we’d just sit up and talk about each other.
“We would make up movies based on whatever affliction that person had. Like, everybody knows my hairline is ridiculously comical so one of the films was ‘Where Did My Hairline Go?’ starring Ne-Yo – and the whole room would crack up.”
Ne-Yo plays a member of the famous Tuskegee airmen in “Red Tails,” which opens Jan. 20.
*Looking for scholarship money for your high school senior?
Consider the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation, which grants scholarship awards to deserving young men and women of accredited high schools who carry a grade point average of at least 3.0.
“We look for outstanding students with great GPAs that exemplify leadership and outstanding abilities just like the Airmen did,” says national spokeswoman La Trycee Fowler. “You don’t have to be African American, or a certain gender – just an outstanding person like the Airmen were.”
La Trycee Fowler
Forty $1,500.00 awards will be available in 2012. Click here for more information. The deadline to apply is Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, EURweb’s Lee Bailey caught up with the Fowler and TAISF board member Pharaoh Childs at a Los Angeles screening of the new Tuskegee Airmen film “Red Tails,”produced by George Lucas and starring Cuba Gooding Jr.,Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Ne-Yo and Terrence Howard.
Fowler and Childs give us their opinion of the film (due in theaters Jan. 20, 2012) in the audio below. [Scroll down to watch the new 2 min. 30 sec. trailer.]
Mariah Carey arrives at the Dorchester Hotel in London (Dec. 10, 2011)
*In its fifth consecutive year, BET Networks presents BET Honors, a night celebrating the outstanding achievements of seven extraordinary legends in music, literature, entertainment, media, service and education.
The 2012 honored recipients include renowned poet/author Maya Angelou (Literary Arts), internationally acclaimed musician Stevie Wonder (Musical Arts), Grammy-award winning songstress Mariah Carey (Entertainer), influential filmmaker Spike Lee (Media), the heroic Tuskegee Airmen (Service) and inspirational coach and mentor Beverly Kearney (Education).
Hosted by actress Gabrielle Union at the historic Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., the event celebrates the lifetime contributions and exceptional service of certain individuals to African-American culture in music, literature, entertainment, media, service and education.
The special will premiere during 1st quarter 2012 on BET.