Over 400 people attended a lecture from a Washington, D.C., professor on the African American experience hosted by the Center for African-American Studies and Research at Central Texas College on Thursday night.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Greg Carr, who is an associate professor of Africana Studies and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Carr pointed to the particular importance of the evening’s theme for the Killeen community, where oral history is still a prominent form of gathering historical contributions of African Americans, just as it is throughout the United States.
Carr also touched on the topics of Texas history addressing “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” going to a segregated college, and beginnings of African American History Month. Carr also spoke about the scarcity of African American cultural centers.
“It means something to have a center for African American Studies and Research anywhere.” Carr said. “It is popular to be black now, but that don’t necessarily translate into resources.”
Carr brought the audience to its feet with a blend of lecture and performance titled “When Can We Speak of No African-American History Month.”
Moving from cultural analysis to personal stories, he both examined and brought to life historical African American problems in social contexts, academia and nationalism. With his combination of disarming reasoning and endearing portrayal of people he has encountered through his research, Carr shared with a rapt audience that African Americans can be fully embraced as part of the fabric of the nation but it is an ideal that, as of yet, seems hard pressed to achieve.
“(February) is the period when you celebrate putting everybody’s story in the same narrative.” Carr said. “And that is a challenge we are so far from meeting that I don’t know if we can meet it.”
Thursday night’s event featured multiple presenters and performers whose minds and talents were focused on issues related to African American history and culture. For seven years, the Center for African American Studies and Research has sought out lecturers that can engage in discussions that provide meaningful insight and impact to Killeen-area residents.
“Millennials, and people younger than I am, they just don’t know the history of the struggles.” said Horace Grace, committee chairman for the Center for African-American Studies and Research. “When I went to town, my mother would tell me to go to the other side of the street and don’t make contact. ... Well, there is a few of us that lived through that era and we want to tell them that story.”
Emcee Aya Eneli welcomed attendees and introduced Grace, who spoke of the efforts of the Central Texas College Foundation in raising $600,000 in scholarships, with the foundation estimated to raise a total of $1 million by the end of the year.
Student speakers and performers were also of significant note at the event. Standing ovation was given to Sanaya Manadier, a Harker Heights High School student, following her soulful version of “Encourage Yourself” by Donald Lawrence.
Belton High School also impressed attendees with student presentations which were focused on “events that are not well talked about,” said Danielle Connor, who teaches eighth-grade history for Belton ISD.
Makenna Morrow’s work titled “Finding family after slavery,” gave insight on pre and post-Civil War struggles.
Ona Eneli gave a presentation titled “The Brownsville Affair: A struggle for Justice”, and discussed the Brownsville Raid, an event where 167 African American infantrymen were dishonorably discharged from the Army as a result of no one coming forward with information after a white bartender was killed. The group’s struggle to reclaim their honorable status and benefits is one of the events that helped influence the creation of the NAACP.