By Anna Wenger
Gloria "Bonnie" Washington, great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington inspired the audience as she shared her great grandfather's vision and how Tuskegee Institute came to be at the 2007 annual Booker T. Washington brunch held at the Historic Mission Inn last Friday.
"He saw our people free. He saw us as owners and businessmen with strong ethics and moral values. Washington understood that much work still needed to be done for us to be free. He began by teaching us freedom and that it has to have psychological components as well as spiritual components. Freedom is a God given right but it also carries a personal responsibility," she told the audience.
Her great grandfather put flesh into his vision. He knew that Tuskegee was going to be that first step and a giant leap forward. Tuskegee was built at the lowest federalization since the Civil War. Reconstruction was rapidly being dismantled. Jim Crow was back in effect. Plessy vs. Ferguson was being called the law of the land violent lynching was occurring throughout the south.
Despite the hostile environment, a group of Black people were determined on building a school in the south to educate the poorest and illiterate amongst them. She said, "The students and the faculty were carrying the vision of my great grandfather. They gave their time, talents, and gifts and to Booker T. Washington which gave birth to a normal and industrial institute. Tuskegee arose like a beacon of light."
Tuskegee Institute was the seed of educational excellence to Blacks in the South. It was also the seed for Black power, Black authority, Black influence, Black business, and Black economic development. Booker T. Washington set the cornerstone for excellence in education and excellence in life. Bonnie concluded her speech by reminding us that "although we have come a long way, we still have a lot of work to do to fully realize her great grandfather's vision." To get more information regarding Timeless Treasures" a book published by Gloria Jackson and Sarah O'Neal Rush go to Booker-t-washington.com.
The event was sponsored by the Black Voice News and Foundation, The Press Enterprise, The Mission Inn, and the African American Historic Society. Awards were presented on behalf of Gloria Negrete McLeod, Congressman Ken Calvert and the City of Riverside.
Other supporters of the event were Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren, Councilmember Dom Betro, Andy Melendrez, Ron Redfern of the Press Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, Bishop Kenneth and Shervonne Wells, of the Kurt Karr singers and Councilman Rikke Van Johnson.
Alicia Lee, Vice President of the African American Historical Society commented that the event was exciting and thrilling, to think, ninety-three years ago Booker T. Washington himself spoke in the IE." Yvette Pierre said that she was happy that the City of Riverside came out and showed their support for this event.
Tables were sponsored for SBVC students and Malik Boykin said that seeing Booker T. Washington's image in Gloria was powerful. "Booker T. Washington wanted us to progress as African Americans," he said while waiting to speak to Ms. Jackso.
Click here to view pictures of this event.
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