The power and excitement of the Pushing Forward for Jobs and Freedom celebration of African American history was fueled by an extraordinary youth march held the week before from the Peoples Center to Kensington Street. Photos of the march shown on a giant screen put youth at the center of the celebration and set the stage for the afternoon
As Prof. Jamie Wilson said in his address, "as this nation fights wars of national aggrandizement, as the gap between the rich and the poor grows, and as the middle class wanes, black people and multiracial alliances will continue to struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the lessons of past struggles will act as guidance."
Wilson discussed those past struggles, centered on anniversaries in 2013 of the emancipation proclamation, the murder of Medgar Evers and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
"It is important," he concluded, "for us to recognize and remember the lesser known and more familiar voices of struggle within the African American experience because, no matter what our hue, our cultural roots and routes may be or become, the history of African Americans has something to teach us all."
The program personified unity of experience and dreams as the multi-racial audience appreciated comments by the New Elm City Dream youth following a video of the march for love, jobs and peace they organized, and then comments by Connecticut Students for a Dream leaders Carolina and Camila Bortolleto whose story of growing up without documents led to their organizing for a path to citizenship for all 11 million immigrants.
Prizes were presented to winners of the high school arts and writing competition. A drum rendition by Brian Jarawa Grey and a medley of songs by Scotticesa Marks added meaning to the 39th annual African American History Month Celebration hosted by the People's World in Connecticut.
Inspired and enthused, the elected officials, union leaders and community activists present enjoyed a delicious home made buffet after the program, sitting in small groups and making new friends.