Black Excellence: Daniel Smith 3/11/1932-10/2022

This month, we mourn the passing of Daniel Smith who died at the age of 90. His life of activism and his pursuit of civil rights very probably stemmed from being the child of Abram Smith, who himself was born into slavery in the 1860’s.

In multiple interviews, Daniel has recalled stories of his father’s experiences under slavery and the ensuing era of Reconstruction.

“At night, Smith would sneak out of bed to hear the stories only his older siblings were allowed to consume. From lynchings to horrid punishments, the stories were gruesome.”

Being raised the child of a former enslaved person along with his 5 siblings, he later came to acknowledge seeing his parents as,

“...followers of the “twice as good” philosophy — the futile belief that black people must perform twice as well as whites just to be considered equal. And beneath the sunny message of how extraordinary the Smith children were lay Abram Smith’s stories of slavery with their frightening symbols of brutality.”

As a young man, he served as a medic in the Korean War. Upon returning to his home in Winsted, CT in 1955, he was dubbed, “Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” for rescuing a drowning man from a flood.

He later attended the Tuskegee Institute to pursue a career as a veterinarian but he left the program after the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL in order to join the Civil Rights Movement. Then, Mr. Smith went on to work on many endeavors related to race equity and civil rights. One such accomplishment was his work as a literacy advocate with migrant workers. This provoked retaliation from the KKK but it didn’t stop him from continuing to work on behalf of the movement, as his life was filled with similar endeavors until his retirement in 1994.

Click on the links to read more about this man’s remarkable life.


Venus and Serena Williams – Black Excellence

During Women’s History Month we shine a light on Serena and Venus Willams.  These two strong sisters are the epitome of strength, grace, and excellence. Whether on or off the tennis court both women have continued to show and prove how dedication and commitment can turn gifts and talent into winning records, successful businesses and fulfilling personal lives.

“I love me. I’ve learned to love me. I’ve been like this my whole life and I embrace me. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I’m strong, and I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful at the same time.”
– Serena Williams taking on body shamers in a 2013 interview with ESPN.

"You have to let fear go. Another lesson is you just have to believe in yourself; you just have to. There's no way around it. No matter how things are stacked against you, you just have to every time."
- Venus Williams

Even under the harshest conditions when folks are coming at them, they stand tall, are not afraid to show their vulnerability, and to fight for what is right.  We salute Serena and Venus.  We also can’t wait to watch “King Richard” to have deeper look inside the lives of this amazing Black family.

 


Black Excellence – bell hooks

Buy the cover art→  Art by Monica Ahanonu for TIME

Gloria Jean Watkins aka bell hooks (September 25, 1952 – December 15, 2021)

This month, we celebrate bell hooks and her contributions to race, class, and culture in her many books, and in her work as a feminist and as a professor.

In her book “All About Love”, she wrote that we put more emphasis on love as a noun, but she asked her readers to use it more like a verb. In the same book, she referred to M. Thomas Peck’s definition of love as

“the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”.

We have a lot to learn about our relationship to love, loving ourselves and loving others.  Dr. Hooks has left us a legacy of instruction in her body of published work.