By Michael BromkaLeontyne Price & Scott Joplin[Donnell Hill has served as Carlsbad’s MLK, Jr. Choir’s director for 20 years]As a choir director and piano player I would focus on two eminent African Americans from musical history.Leontyne Price was an opera star born an only child in Mississippi in 1927.She excelled in church choir.Her mother once brought her to a recital by Marian Anderson in Jackson.Years later in an interview, here’s what Leontyne said —“The minute she came on stage, I knew I wanted to walk like that, look like that, and if possible, sound something near that.”She attended Wilberforce College in Ohio and Juilliard in New York.She toured America as leading lady in “Porgy and Bess.”And she had a whole career starring in operas by Verdi, Puccini, and Mozart.In popular music, an early star and commercial success was Scott Joplin.This “King of Ragtime” wrote a ballet, two operas, and more than 100 ragtime compositions.From Texarkana, he worked aslaborer, itinerant musician, teacher, and composer.By the late 1890s he was publishing.His 1899 hit “Maple Leaf Rag” brought fame, plus a steady income.His death in 1917 ended the ragtime era.But his music was revived in 1973 film “The Sting.”He won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976.Mahalia Jackson[Reverend Voncile King has sung Gospel in church since childhood.]
Besides my mother Fayola BeachumKing, Mahalia Jackson was a great influencer for me.Mahalia is known as “The Queen of Gospel Music.”When I was a kid my mom woke me Sunday mornings to a record of Ms. Jackson singing "Move On Up A Little Higher.”Listening to her great contralto voice moved my soul into the presence of God.Born 1911 in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson found herself in a three-room dwelling of thirteen people and a dog.When Mahalia was five, her mother died.A harsh aunt nicknamed “Duke” demanded dawn-to-dusk housework from the children who rarely got to attend school.Singing in church granted Mahalia escape from drudgery.At age 20, Mahalia moved to Chicago and toured churches there, always singing Gospel.At the March on Washington in 1963, Mahalia Jackson sangin front of 250,000 people before Dr. Martin Luther King gave his great "I Have A Dream" speech.Listening to Mahalia Jackson singing from my mother's motorola on Sunday mornings made me want to sing . . . and the rest is history.Mahalia Jackson usedto say she hoped her music could "break down some of the hate and fear that divides the white and black people in this country.”We’re still in need of God’s Amazing Grace!Dr. MLK, Jr.[Gregory “Poemo” Moore, tending a lawn sprinkler on Davis St.]Iwas only four years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain.Mostly it was older relatives who told me about him and his work.Dr. King fought for the rights of us all —not just Black people.So we all could go to school together, Black white Hispanic.He wanted to stop the prejudice.We all bleed the same color.So shouldn’t we all live peaceably?This is the United States, and we can all stand united or fall divided.
We ain’t got but one judge —God Almighty.He loves us all, makes no exceptions.In the eyes of God we’re all the same, created in His image.I was raised up in the Church —Mount Zion Church of God in Christ, right up the street.Dr. King preached peace and love.It’s on us now to carry on.Wilma Rudolph[Dina Navarrette manages the North Mess Senior Center when it’s up and running.In her youth, Dina was an avid athlete.]Wilma Rudolph was a famous Olympic sprinter from Clarksville, Tennessee.I’m inspired to look closely at challenges she overcame to attainglory.Wilma was born prematurely to Blanche Rudolph.She was the twentieth of 22 siblings from her father Ed Rudolph's two marriages.Wilma suffered from childhood pneumonia, scarlet fever, and infantile paralysis (caused by poliovirus).She wore a leg brace until she was twelve years old.During her senior year of high school, she became pregnant and bore a daughter before attending university.And yet, Wilma broke world records and won one bronze and three gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games.She went on to march for civil rights and women's rights.While still in school athletics, I was inspired by Wilma Rudolph’s example.I never attained lofty athletic glories.But knowing about Wilma’s career made me a better me.Thurgood Marshall & Lavinia Jackson[Collis Johnson was elected Carlsbad Municipal Court Judge in 2018.]
There’s an evolving quirk to what folks call themselves.In order to circle our wagons against the horrors of Jim Crow in 1909, the NAACP was formed.Few folks now commonly use the term “colored.”Today’s options are the seven-syllable explicitness of African-American and simpler quicker Black.Calling Meghan Markle Black makes it clear the category is culture —ethnicity.Let’s contemplate the modest term “Advancement.”Our Declaration of Independence doesn’t guarantee happiness —only the pursuit.It’s fair and sensible for every community to seek advancement and common good.In mid-twentieth century, our attorney seeking modest increments of legal advancement was Thurgood Marshall.By 1967, President Lyndon Johnson had named Thurgood to our nation’s highest court.Here locally it’s an honor to serve as Municipal Court Judge.But let’s recall that our earlier county-wide elected Judge, female of African-American ethnicity, was Eddy County Probate Judge Lavinia Jackson.She served well and won re-election.She embodied capability, service, and advancement.Shirley Chisholm[Nakita Lewis lives, works, and raises her sons in Carlsbad.]Until recently, an American Black woman Vice President was inconceivable.But not long before that, an American woman won the popular vote for President by 3,000,000 votes.Three decades prior, Jesse Jackson (and later Al Sharpton) viably ran for President.Someone plausible had to step forward.Listen to me, I have a voice and deserve to be heard!Even Carol Moseley Braun merited respect as 2000 Presidential primary candidate (although her own Illinois constituents had turned their junior U.S. Senator out of office in 1998).Come on, let’s hear that voice from that face —from the experience and life of that community.
Black Americans have toiled on this continent since 1619.Our men and women have fought to establish and preserve this union.Our blood was worthy to be shed.How ‘bout our voice to be heeded?Our U.S. Senate has now lost its second-ever Black woman member.African Americans number 14% of our populace.Black women are half of these.Simple math would allot seven Black women Senators on average, always.As well, one SCOTUS Justice at least half the time over decades.In a major party primary for the U.S. Presidential nomination in 1972, the first ever Black American to run was a woman —Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.Famously, she said, “If they don’t offer you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”In office as our leaders, we’ve grown to accept that Black women will run, win, and serve.Here in Carlsbad, civic and church boards are eager to include Black women.Young women of color —stay in school and study hard.Toil in the vineyards.Earn that seat.If excluded, be prepared to barge in with a folding chair.Be a team player always.And ultimately, get ready to speak and lead.Goodness knows, we need informed leadership!Why hide that kid?[Aside from his military service in Vietnam and NMSU studies in Las Cruces, Milton Limbert has lived in Carlsbad all his life]Black History in my life has both military and local parts to it.In the Army, in Vietnam, I launched weather balloons for wind readings.My duty wasn’t hazardous.Still, you’re in a war zone.Downtime gets really boring.No-one would call me outgoing.I valued my best friend in Nam —Larry Edge.He was a Black guy from NYC.We were different from each
other.But hanging out together was a fine pastime.Kept our morale up.There’s an earlier friendship in my long life spent mostly in Carlsbad.When I was a little kid some neighbors moved away.They were gonna abandon this big robust combo jungle-gym and kiddie-slide.Too big to take with them.My Mother had me, her much younger little son to look after.She asked our soon-to-depart neighbors to move their slide into our back yard.Of course I loved playing on it.And Mom felt secure that I’dstick close to home.One summer day, I saw another boy small like me.I didn’t know him from school.Maybe we met in the alley, I can’t recall.I can’t even recall his name.I don’t think we talked a lot.I don’t know where he lived.So many decades ago!We played on my slide.I knew my Mom had grown up in Georgia, Deep South.This was Carlsbad in the mid-fifties.Perhaps we were breaking a taboo —because that kid was Black.So he and I always snuck him in the back gate to climb-&-slide, climb-&-slide.It was great!A bit scary, ‘cause I didn’t know what my Mom’s attitude might be.I guess now it was just one summer, sometimes.I never introduced him to my Mom.One day after he left, back in the house Mom asked “Why are you hiding that little boy from me?”No anger in her voice.She knew.She didn’t disapprove.I’d been worried about nothing.Maybe it was just my little-kid fear about Carlsbad in that era.Butler, Delaney, & Jemison[Melissa Gish, former Associate Professor of English at NMSU-Carlsbad, 2004-2010]
While teaching science-fiction literature and film at NMSU-Carlsbad, I included Black authors Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delaney.Born 1947 in Pasadena CA, Butler grew up daughter of a housemaid and a shoeshine man.She was the first science-fiction writer to win aMacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 1995.Born 1942 in Harlem, Delany wrote and published critically acclaimed novels.Their work offers a visionary look at human exploration.Boldness of science-fiction heroes’ enriches our imagination.Black Americans have blazed trails both on Earth and now into space.Mae Jemison is a real-world NASA engineer, physician, and astronaut.Originally from Decatur AL, in 1992 she launched aboard the Space ShuttleEndeavor.The first African American woman to travel in space, Jemison can inspire anyone who’s ever marveled at the night sky.Mae Jemison advises —“Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations.”All of the brief history snippets above —save TWO —were written by Michael Bromka after conversing with locals regarding that particular historic figure.In each case the Carlsbad local offered input on personal significance of that famous historic Black.Depending on those conversations and input, some accounts are in the first person. Melissa Gish wrote her entry. Milton Limbert’s remembrance was told and transcribed.