Highlights – and contributions of our speakers
Our Black History Month program on February 11 brought out one of the largest crowds for a monthly PDB meeting – and surely the most beautifully diverse ethnic mix. Around 60 members and friends attended.
As part of our Black History Month celebration, the Progressive Democrats of Benicia honored four local African-Americans for their service and dedication to our local communities:
- Honorable Terrye D. Davis, Judge, Solano Superior Court
- Viola Robertson, Exec. Dir., Benicia Community Action Council
- Dr. Zoee Bartholomew, Ed.D., Commissioner, Benicia Open Government Commission and
- Novanna (Vonnie) Hunt, Board Member, Benicia Human Services Board.
Gethsemane Moss and K. Patrice Williams moderated the program.
One of our honorees, Novanna Hunt, submitted a written record of her remarks, and co-moderator Gethsemane Moss submitted her poem. We are proud to publish both here:
Novanna (Vonnie) Hunt offered a highly significant insight into the reality of Black History here in Benicia during her lifetime. She told of growing up and remaining a resident on Benicia’s Carolina Drive:
Black History month is a time to recognize and remember great deeds, people and accomplishments in the history of African Americans. We have a bit of interesting and unheralded Black History right here in Benicia.
I live on Carolina Drive which was once an all African American community. How did Carolina Drive become a black community? The homes were built in 1954. As the story goes the original developer fell into financial trouble and needed to sell the homes quickly. He sold his first home to an African American family. After that, he couldn’t sell to anyone but African Americans. The older homes in nearby West Manor had restrictive covenants that prohibited the sale of homes in that development to African Americans. Remember, that in the early 50’s it was tough for a Black couple to qualify for a home loan. They had to have a significant down payment, be gainfully employed at stable jobs, have stellar credit and often references from a white person.
My mother first purchased a home on Carolina Drive in the mid-1960s. My husband and I purchased the home in 1971. I believe it is time to dispel the myths and the prevailing warped perceptions about this neighborhood of 41 homes located just off Military and West Seventh Street. As a fifty-year resident, I can tell you… [continued]
Gethsemane Moss opened with a brief statement about her learnings during her doctoral research, “I studied the history of the negative labeling and experiences of black women. It was during my research and review of literature that things began to make sense based on my own experiences, particularly as a young person and as a working professional. I learned that black women face a great deal of scrutiny in work settings and are constantly put in positions of having to navigate systems while considering their race and gender in order to combat stereotypes. It has helped me to put things in perspective as I continue moving forward in my life.”
Then she shared her moving poem, This Black Woman. The lengthy work begins,
When you look at me, what do you see?
Black, Mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire, angry, uneducated, welfare?
The many lies that have been told about me, yet you never took the time to really see me.
Everyone has a story.
I am mother, a daughter, a wife, a girlfriend, a writer, an actress, a playwright a scholar, a sister, a friend!
I am not only these things for 28 or 29 days out of the year, I am these things 24 – 7 – 365! [continued]