The Truth Staff
In honor on Black History Month, local elected officials joined the Community Solidarity Response Network in raising the green, black and red Pan African flag over the local city and county government building on February 1.
“This symbolizes diversity and those contributions to the nation,” said Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken opening his remarks. “Why? To honor the contributions of people who don’t get seen all the time. We want the truth told.”
However, Gerken also noted that acknowledging diversity in such polarizing times is not always the popular course to take.
“There are forces that want to make this illegal,” he declared. “We raise this flag in defiance of those that want to disagree.”
That message of the increasingly vocal disparagement of diversity initiatives locally and around the nation was repeated by Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz during his time at the podium. Having recently appointed to his administration Councilwoman Tiffany Preston Whitman, EdD, to the new position of director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Kapszukiewicz said that in his years as mayor he has never received such negative feedback.
“The hateful rhetoric will only get louder,” he said. “This work [DEI] is under attack. I was met with the most vitriol of any announcement I have made.”
Nevertheless, the mayor noted that Toledo has a long history of being openminded. “Baked into our DNA is a willingness to meet with everyone.”
For her part, Whitman agreed that “DEI work is under attack,” but regardless of the obstacles, “I’m ready to dig in.”
Newly appointed Lucas County Commissioner Anita Lopez, who will be running for election to the office starting with the primary election in March, spoke of her plans to be active in the pursuit of increasing diversity “with honor and dignity.” Lopez said she plans to make sure that African Americans are well represented in county government “on all levels.” She added that “diversity and inclusion is not just a title, this is the beginning of a new era and we need to make sure the talk is followed through with the walk.”
The raising of the Pan African flag for Black History Month was the brainchild of Washington Muhammad and the Community Solidarity Response Network (CSRN) four years ago. Muhammad, as is the custom, introduced an elder, on this occasion Terry Crosby, to continue the rest of the program and explain the importance of Black History Month and the symbolism of raising the Pan African flag.
Jodie Summers, poet and spoken word artist, introduced his poem for the occasion speaking about the burdens African Americans have had to overcome in their history.
Also on hand for the flag raising were Willie Perryman and Micheal Alexander of the Toledo NAACP along with State Sen. Paula Hicks Hudson. The Pan African flag will fly over One Government Center for the full month of February.