LA holds virtual opening ceremony for African American Heritage Month
The California Secretary of State, Kedren Health Center‘s president and CEO and the Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge were honored Friday at a virtual ceremony to mark the start of Los Angeles’ African American Heritage Month programming.
“I want to congratulate the visionaries who are our honorees, dear friends, fellow servants, people who have made our city, state and world better,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
He added that “a majority of the founders of this `pueblo,’ of this city, trace their ancestry back to Africa. But there’s so many chapters I hope you will all learn and write and that you will be part of us writing this chapter.”
The ceremony, which was hosted by ABC7 anchor Leslie Sykes, was held virtually again this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous years, it was held on the south lawn of Los Angeles City Hall.
The city’s African American Heritage Month event is sponsored annually by Our Authors Study Club, which was created in 1945 with a mission to research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about African American life, history and culture.
Lura Daniels-Ball, president of Our Authors Study Club, spoke about the significance of Black History Month, saying, “We believe that Black history should be something that we talk about and study and read about and share 365 days of the year. So what is February about? Well, this is the opportunity for us to focus and gain inspiration and aspiration for the rest of the year.”
“It’s a time for us to gather and catapult ourselves throughout the rest and the remainder of the year and to celebrate us, to celebrate each other,” she added.
Daniels-Ball also spoke about The Association for the Study of African American Life and History‘s national theme for Black History Month this year: “Health and Wellness.”
“The theme focuses on the importance of Black health and wellness. It acknowledges the legacy of our Black scholars, our medical practitioners in western medicine and other ways of knowing how Black workers, doulas, midwives and herbalists throughout the African diaspora came to take care of us, and it looks at the activities and rituals and initiatives that Black communities have undertaken as well,” Daniels-Ball said.
“Throughout the rest of the year, we’re going to talk about wellness and health and how it impacts our community.”
“Hall of Fame Awards” were presented to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Kedren Health Center President and CEO Dr. John Griffith, and Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Eric Taylor.
Garcetti said Weber “made history writing her own chapter and spending a career blazing the trail for civil rights and for voting rights, as our state’s first Black secretary of state.”
Weber, who became California’s Secretary of State in 2021, previously served nearly a decade in the California State Assembly and 40 years as a professor at San Diego State University, where she focused on Africana studies.
“I tell young people all the time that your task is to do a good job, and if you do that, without looking around and wondering who’s going to celebrate you, you will be celebrated,” she said. “Being secretary of state was not something I applied for, it was not something that I even asked for, but because of the work that I had done in the legislature to fight against the injustice in the system and to expand voting rights and those kinds of things, the governor and his staff, amidst so many other applying, looked at me and asked me.”
Griffith began his career at Kedren in 1981, becoming president and CEO in 2002. Kedren specializes in bringing behavioral health care to families in South Los Angeles.
“Through our location in South Los Angeles, this has allowed us to understand the impact of the life events, social, environmental and family circumstances — such as poverty and violence — on the development, perpetuation and treatments of mental illness. Our patients have taught us a lot,” Griffith said Friday.
He added that he is accepting the award on behalf of Kedren’s employees and patients.
Garcetti said, speaking about Griffith, “I’ve witnessed up close what Kedren has done to save lives and to save hope.”
Taylor has served the L.A. Superior and Municipal courts for the last 21 years. He became the assistant presiding judge in 2019.
“Our court has never been as inclusive from top to bottom as it is now, and that is a lasting legacy that we’re proud of,” Taylor said.
Garcetti called Taylor “a beacon of hope.”
Los Angeles-based R&B group The Whisperers and recording artist Thelma Houston received the “Living Legends Award.”