The Santa Clarita Valley chapter of the NAACP hosted its first in-person general membership meeting on Thursday — which assembled honored guests, community members and local leaders to spotlight the pride and achievements within the community.
The meeting also served as what is planned to be an annual Black History Month celebration for local community members.
Those participating included Karen Dorris; Rachel Geraci, secretary for the NAACP’s SCV chapter; Andrew Taban, field representative for Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth; Cherise Moore, William S. Hart Union High School District board member; and Valerie Bradford, president of the SCV chapter of the NAACP.
“As I look out over the room, I am moved by seeing you all here,” said Bradford, addressing the audience. “We have made great strides here in Santa Clarita. We still have a long way to go, but I can see our presence expanded and that makes my heart filled and it cannot be done without all of you.”
The meeting was opened with an invocation from Pastor Anthony Dorris and the singing of the Black National Anthem by Valorie Moore.
While there was some housekeeping, as part of the membership meeting, the event mostly served as a celebration of Black culture, history and achievements —- most evident with the presence of the night’s honored guests.
Local high school students Isiuwa Aimiuwu and Sophia Crawford, both seniors at Castaic High School, received high praise for the delivery and substance of their speeches. Aside from being lauded orators, both young ladies held impressive accolades.
Aimiuwu is both the Associated Student Body president and the Black Student Union and Alliance president. Crawford was Castaic High’s homecoming queen, team captain of the softball team and is treasurer of Castaic’s BSUA.
Aimiuwu’s speech centered on the importance of Black history and moments in it that were personally important to her.
“The history of Black people in America is as the country itself, despite obstacles and discrimination and systemic oppression, our contributions are vast, in fact, pivotal to the political and economic sense of the United States,” said Aimiuwu. “Although we are integral to the history of this country, too often our story is limited in scope and depth. As school children we learned the same partial, comfortable truths about the same key figures year after year.”
Aimiuwu said that while she has a great respect for these key figures, there are some others she felt were important to highlight — including her own grandfather, who was the first Black man to receive a doctorate in physics from Kent State University.
She also said the trailblazing done by the Little Rock Nine paved the way for her to excel at school safely.
“Thanks to Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls, I did not have to face a violent mob to go to school,” said Aimiuwu. “Thanks to their courage, and organizations like the NAACP, that brought them together, I don’t have to risk bodily harm in order to get the education that I deserve. All I have to do is show up and do my best in my study…. Stories like these are like the wind at my back.”
Crawford, a poet, said Black History Month meant a time of reflection on those who have inspired her to continue in her pursuit of creating art.
“Throughout these 28 days in February, I strut with my head held high and my heart brimmed with triumph as I remember those who have shaped my future, our future,” said Crawford. “Black history is filled with perseverance, innovation and dignity that reminds me to stand tall and to represent my ancestors that have battled so hard for our prosperity.”
Crawford then delivered a poem that was inspired by the rhythm and soulful language created by people like Amanda Gorman, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. The following is an excerpt from her poem, titled “I am not a Minority.”
“I’m not a minority. ‘Minority: the smallest part that is less than half-full.’ I am more than just a minority. A small number that makes me different from the majority, or should I say priority? That’s what they want us to think. I am not a minority, my history has proven that. Martin has taught me to dream, Malcolm has taught me to question the regime. Maya taught me to write, Rosa has taught me how to fight. And Robinson taught me how to play ball, but not a single one has told me that I am small.”
Both Aimiuwu and Crawford were presented certificates of recognition, as were the other special guests of the night — Meagan Jackson and David Hooker.
Jackson was commended for her achievements at Moriah Nursing College, where she acts as its director. Jackson works as both an intensive care unit nurse and has assisted many nursing colleges and vocational schools in things such as curriculum design, accreditation and faculty development.
Hooker was commended for his achievements at the Walt Disney Co., where he acts as a product manager for websites including disney.com and starwars.com. Hooker also created a mentorship program and bridge between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Disney called Disney on the Yard.