ST. LOUIS – The red, black and green Pan African (or African American Heritage) flag was raised Monday morning inside and outside City Hall, signaling the dawn of Black History Month and its observances in St. Louis.
The St. Louis African American Aldermanic Caucus hosted a ceremony on the grounds of City Hall at Washington Park on Market Street, between Tucker Boulevard and 13th Street.
With master drummer Dhati Kennedy of the group Ngoma drumming, Ward 22 Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, chairman of the black caucus, led a small multiracial group of aldermen in ushering in the custom, now in its sixth year.
Prior to the ceremonial raising of the flag, Boyd gave a brief history of it, of Black History Month and of its predecessor, Black History Week.
He noted that Black History Week, begun in 1926, had encompassed the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass on Feb. 12th and 14th, respectively. He said blacks had celebrated together since the late 19th century. The expansion of the celebration to a full month, eventually observed around the nation, began in 1970.
“I’d like to encourage everybody to use this opportunity to support black-owned businesses in the city of St. Louis and around our region,” Boyd said after the flag-raising.
He said he also wanted to use the observance as an opportunity for African-Americans to become united in such a way that they celebrate each other not just during one month but every day.
“Black History Month is a precious month for African-Americans,” Boyd said. “It celebrates a lot of accomplishments and achievements that many people enjoy.” Boyd added that he was pleased that a diverse group of his colleagues were participating.
Along with Boyd and St. Louis African American Aldermanic Caucus members Shameem Clark-Hubbard (Ward 26), Lisa Middlebrook (Ward Two) and Jesse Todd (Ward 18), were Alderwomen Sarah Martin (Ward 11) and Beth Murphy (Ward 13), both of whom are European-Americans; and Alderman Bret Narayan (Ward 24), an Asian Pacific-American.
“I think it’s important that people – regardless of their identities – come together to support our colleagues and citizenry of St. Louis,” Narayan said. He added, “It’s a short month with a lot of history, and I’m happy to be a part of anything that increases our ability to learn.”
Martin said, “I think having this is important and a great way to highlight black culture and diversity in our city.”
Terry Kennedy, who made history as the first African-American Clerk to the City Board of Aldermen, also attended the rite. Kennedy is the brother of Dhati and also a member of Ngoma, a popular and longtime African drumming and performance ensemble.
Sam Moore, who was unable to make the ceremony, sponsored the original resolution six years ago along with the caucus.
It was passed by unanimously by the Board of Aldermen.
“I think it’s high time we stand up and have our own flag,” said promoter Ron Gregory, brother of the late great comic and activist Dick Gregory. “People ask why it’s in the shortest month, and I always say it’s a month that also celebrates love.”
Bedford Mitchell, an activist, who was on his way to City Hall, stopped to see the flag-raising and said, “It represents our people, and we are a representation of the United States. We’re Americans, too. We helped build it, and we continue to help build it as we stand here today.”