February 29, 2024

A Note from Justice Cleo Powell

A Note from Justice Cleo Powell

Greetings and Happy Black History Month to my ASL Family,

For the entire month of February, all across America schools, churches, clubs, even the Super Bowl, studied and paid tribute to the contributions African Americans have made to this great country of ours. Some contributions are well known. You all have heard of Maya Angelou a well renowned author and poet, the first Black woman to be depicted on a quarter.

Other contributions are less well known. I don’t know if BLSA served it with its dinner on Wednesday. But do you know the name of the fried bread delicacy generally served with fried fish? If you said, “hush puppies”, you are right. Do you know the origin? According to legend, enslaved people attempting to escape would throw fried cornmeal to watchdogs to keep the dogs from barking. Therefore, the name “hush puppies”. See, Cierra Tolentino, ”The Origin of Hush Puppies: South American Delicacy”, History Cooperative, May 15, 2022,
https://historycooperative.org/origin-of-hush-puppies/. Accessed February 24, 2024.

In my own church, as is our tradition, this month we opened each service singing the “Black National Anthem”. We did so to teach our youth and to remind our adults of the message in the lyrics. I hope that you spent just a little time this month learning something new and/or remembering something that perhaps you had forgotten.

I am a fan of Black History Month. I appreciate the opportunities for celebration, reflection, recognition, acknowledgment and growth that it provides.

But I am intentionally writing to you on the last day of the month because I want to encourage you to celebrate our differences on more occasions than just in February. I write to you at the end to encourage you to recognize and acknowledge the importance of diversity each and every day. I encourage you to appreciate the richness diversity brings to each of our lives. I encourage you to not just focus on diversity during February but to always be intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion.

A few years ago, I spoke to you, my ASL family, about the importance of diversity. At that time, I reminded you of the 64-count box of Crayola crayons. The one with more colors than you could ever have imagined. The box that allowed you to paint the most brilliant pictures known to man. I reminded you, that even as a child, you intuitively knew that the 64-color box was better than
the twelve. I reminded you, that the 64-color box was more amazing because of its inclusivity. And I asked the question, when along our journey did we stop valuing differences. When during our journey, did we have to be intentional about reminding ourselves of the richness of diversity? When did we stop celebrating differences? When was it that we lost sight of the fact that we are
better in our inclusiveness than we could ever be when divided?

So, as Black History Month comes to an end and we begin the rest of our year, indeed the rest of our lives, let us practice always seeing each other as we are. Let us focus on valuing each other for who we are. An awareness of diversity allows us to see each other as we are. It causes us to value the other person for who she is. When we “see” others and they “see” us, it allows us to progress. Let us seek every day to see, hear and understand each other. Let us never forget that each of us, because of our uniqueness is value added. Every day, by virtue of our individual differences let us seek to grow and learn and afford others the opportunity to grow and learn. It is where we hear and are heard, see and are seen, seek to understand and be understood that we grow. Every day let us embrace our commonalities and recognize, accept and celebrate our uniqueness. For it is the richness of our different thoughts and experiences that make for a better world. Here in the beauty of the mountain and as we venture out into the world our commonalities are our roots and our differences are our branches. Like a tree, we need both to reach our full potential. As Black History Month 2024 comes to an end let each of us remember the 64-count box of crayons.

Best to each of you,

Justice Cleo E. Powell

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