By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
All month long, individuals and groups have been celebrating Black History Month. Although every day should be dedicated to celebrating and honoring one’s history, Milwaukee celebrated black history in its own unique way.
On Monday, city officials, important city figures and city residents, congregated in City Hall’s rotunda. They gathered to celebrate the city’s 3rd Annual Black History Program. This year’s theme “Moving in Time, in Rhythm, Together” featured a plethora of talented groups and individuals.
“Black History Month is another opportunity to recognize the rich tapestry of African-American culture here in Milwaukee,” said Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.
During the event, many people wore shirts, head wraps or other items with traditional African patterns on them. Hamilton, along with several other men in attendance, sported a colorful dashiki.
Mayor Tom Barrett was in attendance along with Ald. Milele Coggs, Ald. Nikiya Dodd, Ald. Khalif J. Rainey, Ald. Chantia Lewis and Ald. Russell W. Stamper, II.
The event, in keeping with honoring African traditions, began with a libation ceremony performed by Adekola Adedapo. During the libation, Adedapo used water to pay an homage to the ancestors.
“This month offers us the platform upon which we can proclaim and honor the sacrifices that our ancestors, neighbors and leaders have made,” Hamilton said per the Milwaukee independent.
After the libation, Ton Ko-Thi African drummers and dancers kicked off the event with their performance. Ko-Thi, is a group comprised of young individuals who learn about African culture through music, dance and costumes.
According to the website, Ko-Thi means “to think and seek Black culture” and comes from the Shebro language spoke in Sierra Leone. Dressed in traditional garb, the group not only entertained the audience but educated them on the beautiful traditions of African culture.
Janiya Williams, a student at Golda Meir Middle School, also performed her award-winning poem. She had previously performed the poem during Milwaukee’s 35th celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday.
“I see the news and I flinch, black kids are getting show down for sleeping on a bench,” Williams said. “I can’t breathe just like I can’t believe all these parents have to grieve.”
Williams’ poem remarked on the rise of police brutality, specifically that regarding young and unarmed black men.
“Equal, all of gods people but on this earth as brothers and sisters, misses and misters, unalarmed, unharmed and unarmed,” she said.
Williams’ performance was met with resounding applause.
In addition to the performances, Dr. William Edward Finlayson was honored during the event.
Finalayson received the Milwaukee Living Legacy Award. According to the Milwaukee Independent, Finlayson worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist.
He owned his own practice in Milwaukee from 1958 until 1997. In addition, he founded the North Milwaukee State bank in 1971, which was the first black-owned bank in Milwaukee. The bank helped with “community development and economic growth, personal and business advancement, home ownership growth, and financial education.”
Ald. Cavalier Johnson said that this year’s program reflected the culture of today.
Even though Black History Month has come to a close, there’s still plenty of ways to celebrate and honor black excellence in the city of Milwaukee.