One of the annual highlights at the start of the Oklahoma State Legislature’s annual session is the African-American heritage program. This year’s event unfolded at the state Capitol on Feb. 12, celebrating the contributions of black Oklahomans to, and influence on, the Sooner State.
Oklahoma City state Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman sponsored the event, along with the NAACP Oklahoma City Youth Council, Top Teens of America and emerging young leaders of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Beyond the Dream.”
“Our goal is to foster an environment to where students and residents can come and participate in the celebration of the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month,” said Pittman, a Democrat. “Since I was first elected to office, I have worked with local leaders to expand what was originally a simple photo shoot to document African American community leaders to an event that includes performances, vendors and numerous civic leaders. It is one of my favorite annual events.”
Pittman said the annual photo shoot was a tradition set into motion by a now deceased African American community leader and newspaper publisher, Lecia Swain-Ross, more than 20 years ago.
The program took place Tuesday morning, and included a ceremonial unveiling of a Rosa Parks commemorative stamp and a performance of “Swingin’ and Singin’ on the Deuce” by DWe Williams and Rhythmically Speaking.
Rhythmically Speaking now includes international duo Adam and Kizzie Ledbetter, who have returned home to share their unique style of blended blues, jazz and contemporary music. The performance featured the music of Jimmy Rushing.
A tribute to the National Association for Black Veterans was part of the program. Dr. Monique Bruner facilitated Oklahoma African-American authors as they presented literature. Local schools also provided entertainment for the event.
The event also featured local African American businesses and service providers such as Oklahoma Metropolitan Better Living Center, Guiding Right Inc. and COPE Inc.
Bruce Fisher from the Oklahoma Historical Society shed insight on last year’s failure of House Bill 1977, the Oklahoma Freedom Trail Act.
“This is a way for the African American community to document local leaders and other members of the community,” said Pittman.