Celebrating Extraordinary Contributions

Celebrating Extraordinary ContributionsThe creation of a national museum of African-American history is one step closer to becoming a reality following the appointment of a 19-member advisory council in December. The council is charged with advising the Smithsonian Institution’s regents on the design, the acquisition of objects and maintenance of the museum, just to name a few of their responsibilities.

Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University, established a committee to take a closer look at the Ivy League institution’s historical ties to slavery — not a project most colleges and universities would eagerly take on.

And after dedicating 30 years of his life to making sure that more of Mississippi’s Black college students have access to a quality college education, attorney Alvin O. Chambliss Jr. would now like to be fairly compensated.

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s important to look at and celebrate the past contributions African Americans have made, but it’s equally important that we stop to recognize the contributions that African Americans are making everyday.

The national museum recognizing the contributions of African Americans will obviously be a history museum, however, people such as Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., have pushed for this museum, and the dozens of people who will be responsible for seeing the museum actually come to fruition have made and are making an extraordinary contribution to American history.

The Black community celebrated when Simmons was named the president of Brown University, making her first the African American to lead an Ivy League institution. Just by being named president, she made history. But she hasn’t stopped there. Her decision to start a dialogue about Brown’s past and its ties to slavery has already made people on the campus start thinking and talking differently about race and race relations. That’s an extraordinary contribution.

Representing the plaintiffs in Mississippi’s Ayers vs. Fordice for three decades, Alvin Chambliss would like to get paid for his services in the case that he says left him and his family “virtually bankrupt.” Not part of a meeting in 2002 when five other attorneys involved with the case agreed on how their fees would be allocated, Chambliss says he shouldn’t be subject to a pre-determined amount, especially for spending 30 years of his life on the case. Regardless of what one thinks of Chambliss or the merit of the case, his dedication to Ayers has been extraordinary.

These are some of the stories we’re taking a look at in our annual Black History Month edition, in addition to following the leadership changes at our nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, most recently at Alabama A&M University and the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Senior writer Ronald Roach covers the planning progress of a national Black history museum; assistant editor Kendra Hamilton takes a look at what’s happened at Brown University since President Simmons established the Committee on Slavery and Justice; and B. Denise Hawkins, a former Black Issues editor, speaks with Chambliss, someone she’s gotten to know well over the years, about being justly compensated and the legal dream team he hopes to assemble to help him fight for his own Ayers settlement.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso
Editor



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