Rev. Mark Whitlock (Joseph McHale/LARIAT STAFF)
Irvine Valley College invited the Rev. Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer Church to speak for their celebration of Black History Month on Wednesday.
The celebration also featured Renaissance, a street corner style Doo Wop band, to perform upbeat and uplifting a cappella songs.
The Speech by Whitlock was a remembrance of the past and a look at the present, and what Eatty Tran, 21, health science, described as “Totally inspirational.”
Whitlock’s speech began with a description of unity.
“Unity dismantles segregation and constructs a just society,” Whitlock said. “Indeed it is the time for a call for unity.”
He talked about the June 7, 1892 incident when Homer Plessy, an African-American man, boarded an East Louisiana railroad car designated for “whites” only. When Plessy refused to move to the “colored” section he was arrested and jailed.
Because of that incident the infamous Jim Crow Laws were created to give African-Americans separate but equal rights. Since those laws were created, activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pushed for a society that reflected what the Declaration of Independence states: “All men are created equal.”
“We must embrace everyone,” Whitlock said. “Because that is part of the American fabric.”
The attitude that King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders had carried over to the present day leaders such as Whitlock.
“I don’t know about you, but isn’t it wonderful being an American,” Whitlock said. “Because every now and then we got to stand up and declare nobody has a right to tell me to sit down.”
The second part of Whitlock’s speech covered the present problems that African-Americans face.
Whitlock noted that African-Americans have an 18.6 percent lifetime chance of going to prison compared to 3.4 percent for White-Americans. 30 percent of African-Americans in California are either in prison or jail. The ratio of local jails for African-Americans to “white” inmates is five-to-one. He also stated that 50 percent of African-Americans and Latino-Americans drop out of high school and lead in age case cigarette addiction, poor health, and care.
“Our Challenge for the 20th century is to come out of these racial constructs that would dare to separate us,” Whitlock said. “We must understand that we have more in common than in contrast.”
The speech was a reminder of what determined people in the black community have done to put themselves equally among society.
“It was a good reminder of things we shouldn’t forget,” Artistic Director of Renaissance Maurice Kitchen said. “Unfortunately a lot of people have.”
Whitlock and others alike during and after Black History Month do their part in reminding the American people that an old saying is not what Kitchen describes as “Yes I forgot,” but “Less we forget.”