Mercer Island mayor proclaims February as African American History Month

The city proclamation encourages dialogue and a shared commitment to action.

Mercer Island Mayor Debbie Bertlin presents the African American History Month proclamation to Reverend Wayne Perryman, a Mercer Island resident and minister active in regional equality and discrimination issues, on Feb. 6 at City Hall. Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Mercer Island Mayor Debbie Bertlin presents the African American History Month proclamation to Reverend Wayne Perryman, a Mercer Island resident and minister active in regional equality and discrimination issues, on Feb. 6 at City Hall. Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Police Chief Ed Holmes, Mayor Debbie Bertlin and Reverend Wayne Perryman helped the Mercer Island City Council proclaim February as African American History Month on Feb. 6, urging “all citizens to recognize the continued need to battle racism and to build a society that is more just, peaceful, and prosperous for all.”

Perryman, an author, president of Humanity Diversity LLC and 40-year Island resident, accepted the proclamation. He has done training for Mercer Island and 10 other police departments on racial relations, and serves on the Mercer Island School District Superintendent’s Diversity Advisory Committee.

Perryman recently produced the documentary “Because of the Color of Their Skin,” which highlights some of the events that shaped the lives of African Americans during the past 395 years.

“Black history is not about black people,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. “In America, it’s more about the relationship between blacks and whites.”

Perryman said he dedicated a section of his book to the white abolitionists committed to ending slavery; who “gave their lives to see to it that injustices were wiped out.” He is trying to raise $9,000 to distribute his new book on current black history to athletes, students and members of Congress.

The city noted that its “proclamation serves as a reminder of the need for meaningful dialogue and shared commitment to collective action that uplifts and empowers, as well as of the strength, ingenuity, and perseverance required in years to come.”

Bertlin said that “during African American History Month, we celebrate the many achievements and contributions made by African Americans to our economic, cultural, spiritual, and political development.”

“In 1976, Black History Month was formally adopted to honor and affirm the importance of Black History throughout our American experience, and is full of individuals who took a stance against prejudice, advanced the cause of civil rights, strengthened families, communities, and our nation,” according to the proclamation, read by Bertlin.

The proclamation also notes the history of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, noted Black scholar and son of former slaves.

“African Americans have played a significant role in the history of our nation, and Washington State’s economic, cultural, spiritual and political development while working tirelessly to promote their culture and history,” the proclamation continues. “ASALH’s 2018 theme, ‘African Americans in Times of War,’ commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918, and explores the complex meanings and implications of this international struggle and its aftermath.”

The proclamation concludes that “as a result of their determination, hard work, and perseverance, African Americans have made valuable and lasting contributions to our community and our state, achieving exceptional success in all aspects of society including business, education, politics, science, and the arts.”

See www.mercergov.org/CouncilMeetings for more.

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