February is Black History Month and Arizona community leaders, businesses and educators are involved in a variety of events that celebrate, commemorate, and reflect on the African American impact and experience in our country. A number of events and outreach initiatives invite the state of Arizona to participate in Black History Month.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day served as an unofficial kickoff for Black History Month where many groups began hosting events honoring the African American community and its influence in our state.
The Phoenix Suns, in collaboration with local non-profit Elevate Phoenix and manufacturing group Carlisle Companies Inc., created a special project in honor of Black History Month. For the entirety of February, Suns players will wear customized sneakers that depict images of moments in history woven in with personal experiences of the player. The shoes will be sold at the end of the month where proceeds will be donated to Elevate Phoenix, which helps serve urban youth in creating meaningful relationships in partnership with Carlisle Companies.
Chris Koch, president and CEO of Carlisle Companies, spoke about their involvement with the project and why it was important for them to participate. “As the nation reflects on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for social justice and civility, Carlisle Companies and our employees are inspired by his message, and believe it is important to do our part to support, encourage and contribute in impactful ways to increase civility and service in our community, in our state, and in our country.”
Alan “AP” Powell, a prominent leader in the philanthropic community and founder of the Herozona Foundation, expressed why he believes celebrating the African American community is essential for a growing state. “It shows the unification of Arizona. We are unified. It is one of those states that is just progressing.”
“For me personally, Black History Month shows the heritage of the state, but it also is a time to be proud of those who went before us, leaders who went before us, to highlight their dedication and their commitment to change and diversity.”
Powell, through American Legion Post #65 and sponsorship of APS, is hosting an event called PlayItForward celebrating the arts and Black History Month. He explained that, “we are taking inner city kids from the three schools in South Phoenix, which are South Mountain High School, Betty Fairfax, and Caesar Chavez and we are going to take 10 students from each school down to see the play [Two Trains Running], so that we can actually show arts and culture, especially for inner city kids, during Black History Month.” The event takes place on February 28th at the Herberger Theatre.
The Maricopa Community College District has also planned a number of events to further inform and involve individuals in Black History Month. “We are excited about the meaningful events we have planned this year in honor of Black History Month,” said Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, MCCCD Chancellor. “These celebrations are an important tradition at the Maricopa Community Colleges. We invite our community to join us in enriching our lives through commemorating the contributions and legacy of African Americans.”
Additional events will be hosted by the state universities and can be found by visiting The University of Arizona’s website, Northern Arizona University’s website, and Arizona State University’s website.