By Gavin Jackson
Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC 6th) was honored for his work in the field of politics and delivered the keynote address to students, staff and family at Friday's seventh annual Palmetto Youth Academy black history luncheon at Progressive Church.
Congressman Clyburn, who's district currently includes most of the Pee Dee, told the children that they need to recognize what talent or talents that have and practice them to the best of their abilities so they can succeed. "Dream big, go fast to your dreams," said Clyburn, "because if a dream dies, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."
This message directly impacted sixth-grader Allen Coe.
"They have inspired me to go to new heights," said Coe, an aspiring artist at the school. "I need to train my talent and show the community what I can do."
The message of goals and success were reinforced by the dozen honorees at the luncheon. They included Tuskegee Airman Leroy Bowman, who fought in the air during World War II.
"The entire program was designed to prove that black men were not ably to fly," Bowman said in an earlier interview. "After trying it, they discovered the opposite was true." Bowman and his fellow pilots became pioneers in desegregating the military and knew they had a big responsibility. "If we had failed, it may have been at least another 50 years to get to where we are today."
Bowman received a standing ovation from the crowd and reiterated Clyburn's comments.
"Use the talents you have," Bowman said. "I impress upon you to do what you can, when you can, for as long as you can and success will meet you."
The theme of goals seemed to be inspired by a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry," King said. "He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will pause and say "here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well.'"
In an interview afterwards, Clyburn said, "It is important to instill hope in the hearts and minds of young people. Many of these children are here in this school from pretty disadvantaged backgrounds, and many of their parents have been unemployed as a result of this economy that we're suffering and I think any time we can participate in trying to encourage them is important."
The event focused on the accomplishments of local leaders and in multiple fields such as business, politics, military, law, law enforcement and the medicine.
"Remember it's not just black history, but America's history, as well as the world's history," student Clifton Coe said during the ceremony introduction.
Students like Coe get a dose of black history every day in the classroom said Palmetto Youth Academy behavioral interventionist Sandra Muldrow. She said the students start off every day with information on a historical figure in black history.
"We want the children to embrace the culture from which they come from," Muldrow said. "The students are so excited for this day and the speakers like Congressman Clyburn."