Somerset County Democratic Black Caucus Holds Black History Month Celebration In Franklin

Akil Kokayi Khalfani, director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College, was the keynote speaker Feb. 10 at the Somerset County Democratic Black Caucus Black History Month celebration.

Members of the Somerset County Democratic Black Caucus were encouraged Feb. 10 to “stomp like an elephant” to “change the world.”

That was the exhortation given by Akil Kokayi Khalfani, the keynote speaker in the caucus’s Black History Month celebration at the Senior/Community Center on DeMott Lane.

The program was held in honor of the late Donald Payne Sr., the first African-American elected to the U.S. Congress, and U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the first African-American woman from New Jersey elected to Congress.

Khalfani, the director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College, Newark, told his audience that they have an obligation to groom the next generation to ensure progress in racial justice.

After discussing the history of African Americans post-enslavement, Khalfani brought in Dr. Martn Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the context of the need to look to the past to prepare for the future.

“What were the hopes and visions of our predecessors 50 years ago, what did they want the world to look like,” he said. “How are we doing with the assignment (our ancestors) gave us?”

That assignment, Khalfani said, was to prepare for the future by gooming the younger generation.

“Make those calls, open those doors,” he said. “That’s how we change the reality of what’s been going on.”

“Lets’ hope the generation in 2068 is not looking back and saying, it’s too bad things haven’t change since then,” he said.

“We’re still in an era where problems abound and there’s challenges that we need to confront that mirror some of the things of 50 years ago,” he said. “I want us  to move to a place where we’re not mirroring those things in another 50 years. So that’s my point to you.”

Khalfani urged his audience not to move silently through their lives, but to “stomp like an lephant.”

“I challenge you all to walk like an elephant,” he said. “When an elephant walks, it doesn’t matter if it stomps or tip toes, or if it walks lightly, everywhere it goes it leaves a footprint. Think about not just making footprints, but think about the type of footprints you leave behind.”

“When you are thinking about the things that go on in the world around us, I want you to realize that we are powerful beyond our imagination, and that we collectively can change the world if we only stomp like an elephant,” he said. “If we go through this world realizing that tomorrow we can’t do the same things we do today, that we want that change, and that when we think and do differently, we will stomp like an elephant and we will change the very ether in the air and we want to stomp like an elephant and recognize that the water isn’t even going to be the same because we’re going to do something different to bring about a different reality in the world that we’re in”

“We’re gonna stomp like an elephant and recognize that we have power beyond our wildest imaginations,” he said. “Stomp like an elephant, stomp like an elephant, stomp like an elephant and change the world.”

Diversity was the topic offered by Mayor Phil Kramer during his address to the group.

“Being a citizen in Franklin is a wonderful treat because of the diversity,” he said. “An expression I developed in college … I realized that if you keep talking to people who agree with you, you’ll begin to think you’re right. When you come to a place as diverse as this, you have no choice” but to develop a new way of looking at things, he said.

“The diversity of Franklin is sometimes a challenge because you hear a new idea that sounds wrong, then you have to get your ego out of the way and think, why am I arguing against this, what am I thinking?” he said. “Then you begin to realize that those things are right.”

“I have grown because of the diversity of Franklin,” Kramer said. “I grew because of diversity when I was in the Air Force, but the diversity of Franklin is a rich reward that we all get to share.”

“I remember some of the idealism that I had a few years ago when Barack Obama was elected (president),” he said. “I said, that’s it, we’ve made it, we are diversified and we are accepting of each other and I was so overjoyed that we had made it. And now I’ve learned that we haven’t. It’s shocking and it’s shocking how accepting of it we are.”

After being given a proclamation from the caucus, Watson Coleman said that “It’s a blessing to me to be able to serve in this capacity, or any capacity God sends my way.”

“I look around this audience and I know that intuitive and instinctively, we’ve been the heart for other people,” she said. “And we need to be committed to every other person. We’re an amazing tapestry in this United States of America, we are strong because we are diverse. We are strong beacuse we work together.”

“We put our hard work and desire into a good life for other people first and foremost,” she said. “As we continue to do that then we will show the rest of the world and particularly Washington D.C. and that White House down there that we are a community of love and that we stand with one another, we will not be divided, we will not have our democracy denigrated, we will be strong and secure in love, dignity and support.”

The afternoon also featured performances by several groups and individuals: an Inspirational Rap Group – Andrea Tatum, Kyle Walker and Kourtney Walker – Xinos & Kudos, the Franklin High School Student Step Team; Shirley Saunders Liturgical Dance Ministry; Natalia Owusu, who gave a spoken word presentation; Syonna Amore Rodgers, who sang the National Anthem.

Girl Scout Cadette Troop No. 60628 and Daisy Troop No. 63202 conducted the flag ceremony, and Minister Catina Jackson of the First New Birth Baptist Church gave the invocation.


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