Celebrating Black History: ‘We are because they were’

  • Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dan Brown/Independent The Sons of Truth entertain Saturday’s audience with a song during keynote speaker Rep. Joe Jefferson’s introduction.

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February represents a month of hope.

It represents a month of empowerment.

“We are, because they were ...” The Moncks Corner Branch of the NAACP celebrated the beginning of Black History Month with a commemorative breakfast on Saturday before a standing room only crowd at the Moncks Corner Masonic Lodge on Hwy. 52.

Part fellowship gathering, part meal and a whole lot church service, the two-hour celebration offered hope, presented personal challenges for area youth to change, and reminded those in attendance that the fight was not yet finished.

The keynote speaker, South Carolina State Representative Joe Jefferson, offered words of hope and reflection

“Joe is a man who needs no introduction,” said Berkeley County Councilman Caldwell Pinckney during Jefferson’s introduction. “He is home grown. He is a true public servant. He is a true public servant because he has no love for power but he does have the power of love.”

Jefferson’s philosophy in life, service to mankind, is a must, he said.

“Joe Jefferson is a great role model, not for of himself, but because of what he does for his people,” Pinckney said.

Pinckney also challenged his constituents to stand up and shoulder the burden of change.

“If we are going to make things better for ourselves then we need to start voting, and change happens one vote at a time,” he said. “Don’t ever say to yourself, that we don’t have to go vote today. We need to find ourselves in a voting booth and cast our own vote.”

Jefferson spoke about his past during the first signs of change that swept over the South during the 1960s, times Jefferson referred to as, “Thank God moments,” in his life.

“I had the privilege to attend the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968,” he said. “I had the privilege to integrate the bowling alley in Orangeburg back in 1968. I had the privilege to be standing on the front line when they started shooting at us in Orangeburg back in 1968. We realized when they started shooting that they weren’t shooting over our heads, they were shooting at us and we needed to run.”

It was during these moments, and the car accident Jefferson survived a few years back that taught him about life’s precious thread.

“There is such a thin line between life and death,” he said. “Waking up in that wrecked car and not knowing if I were dead or alive ... it taught me that life is but a slip of the moment and the next you’re gone.”

“You need to pray every morning, noon and night,” Jefferson added.

Jefferson reminded those in attendance that change didn’t come without fight.

“I remember going to a restaurant to order food and I had to enter through a side door in order to place my order,” he said. “I had to wait though until others were served first. And I said to myself, ‘My goodness, this is not right.’

“I remember going with my uncle, who was sick, to the doctor and sitting in a side waiting room and waiting until the others there were treated first and I thought to myself, ‘My goodness, this is not right.’”

Jefferson said being a minority was not limited to the color of one’s skin.

“I realized if you were minority back then, you were a black or a Jew back then, you went through a hard time in America. Those were hard times back then, but things have improved, thanks to the work of the NAACP.”

The fight isn’t over, Jefferson continued, saying the burden of responsibility rested on the shoulders of today and tomorrow’s voters.

“There’s a saying, that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he said. “There should be a balance of power in South Carolina, but there isn’t. There shouldn’t be one party holding every office in South Carolina, but there is. Something is wrong when a man stands up in the middle of congress to call the President of the United States a liar and then the state elects his son to be the Attorney General.”

Jefferson has introduced a bill to the state house that will allow the Sargent at Arms to remove anyone, “either Democrat or Republican, who disrupts the assembly and interrupts the Governor. You may not respect the person, but you respect the office.”

Jefferson said people today have too many “buts” in their lives. “I would come to the town council meeting, BUT. I would have listened to the President’s speech last week, BUT. I would have come to the county school board meeting, BUT. Don’t let anybody tell you your vote doesn’t count, because it does.”

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