Further reflections on Black History Month

Lonnell's class photo 1951

In reflecting upon events connected to Black History Month 2016, my mind goes back to an event that that occurred 65 years. On February 22, 1951, I smiled while my class picture was taken, as an ever eager, third-grade student. The bulletin board in the back of the classroom was decorated with these words: “Negro History Week.” This original designation was established in February, 1926, as the fruitful vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Since 1976 the celebration has been transformed into the current month-long celebration.

The bulletin board in the picture reminded me that at that time I consciously determined that I would someday “make history” and do something significant as an African American. Back in the day, I expressed this burning desire this way: “I want to be a credit to the Negro Race.”

As I reflect upon my diverse life, I have been blessed to work in various careers. As a former registered pharmacist, licensed in Indiana and North Carolina, I was the first African American graduate from Purdue University’s 5-year pharmacy program. Years later I continued to work in pharmacy while pursuing an academic career in higher education while working on a doctorate in English from Indiana University. After teaching English on the university level for more than 30 years in Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and North Carolina, I retired as a Professor of African American literature. I continue to teach, however, because I love “the teacher’s task.”

Most amazingly, I was introduced to classroom teaching after being drafted into the US Army during the Vietnam era when I chose to teach pharmacy technicians rather than work in a dispensary. Having experienced the joy of teaching while in the military, I eventually discovered immense satisfaction from teaching on the collegiate level.

In 1976, I served as an adjunct instructor at The Way College of Emporia in Kansas where I taught New Testament History. In the opening session I recall quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “The reader of history must replace the words ‘there’ and ‘then’ with the words ‘here’ and ‘now.’”

Forty years following that initial teaching experience on the collegiate level, I am serving as an adjunct professor at another Bible College, Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC, where I teach public speaking, writing, American literature and other general education courses. In addition, I also serve as an adjunct professor at Fayetteville State University, the place where I first taught composition and literature as a full-time instructor more than 20 years ago. “Oh, the Providence of God!”

In addition to teaching writing, as a professional writer I have published articles on various  subjects, such as biblical research and African-American literature. Furthermore as a published poet, I continue to write, maintaining this personal blog while also serving as a writer for another Internet publication.

Over the years I have been blessed to work in an array of careers, as hospital pharmacist, editor, administrator, director of public relations, information analyst and others. As I began to savor the joys of teaching on the collegiate level, I also endeavored to hone my poetic skills. As I concluded the opening session of New Testament History class that I taught 40 years ago, I used an illustration to I emphasize the importance of “making history” and that all believers today are also a vital part of the history of the New Testament. I brought a full length mirror to the class along with an empty canvas. I stressed that during the class each of us would be painting a life-sized self-portrait which would eventually hang in the “Living Gallery of the New Testament.” I ended by reciting this original poem related to the ongoing theme of the course:

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space:
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

We conclude our comments with “The Truth of His Story” a song written by Keith Washo, featuring Vanessa Lombera/Vocals

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