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Henry Lewis (1932 – 1963) was born in Los Angeles, California. His father worked as a car dealer and his mother was a nurse. He began taking piano lessons at age 5. Lewis would also learn to play a number of stringed instruments including the clarinet. His talent in playing the double base earned him a scholarship to UCLA. When he was 16 years old, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This made Lewis the first black instrumentalist in a major symphony orchestra. He later joined the military. During his military service, he conducted the Seventh Army Symphony based in Germany from 1955 – 1956.
In 1961 he accepted the role of assistant conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the leadership of Zubin Mehta. He served in this role until 1965. Lewis then relocated to New Jersey in 1968 and became music director and conductor of the New Jersey Symphony. He was the first African American conduct to hold these roles for a major symphony orchestra. At the time he took over it was small, community ensemble. Under his leadership, the group gained national renown as an orchestra, had a schedule of 100+ concerts per year with a budget exceeding $1 million dollars annually. In 1972 he was also the first African American to conduct the Metropolitan Opera. Lewis was married to famous white opera singer Marilyn Horne from 1960-1979. The couple had one daughter, Angela in 1965. They divorced in 1974.
Lewis retired from the New Jersey Symphony in 1976 but continued to tour extensively as a guest conductor for almost 20 years until his death. He was a widely acclaimed musician and conductor; a true trailblazer. At age 63, he died of a heart attack in 1996.
Jewel Plummer Cobb (1924 – 2017) grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her groundbreaking research studied the relationship between skin pigmentation and cancer. She was also a staunch advocate for increasing the number of women and students of color in STEM careers. Her father, Frank Plummer was a doctor and her mother, Carriebel Cole Plummer, was physical education and dance teacher. Cobb’s grandfather was formerly enslaved man who received his freedom and graduated from Howard University in 1898, earning a degree in pharmacy. Continue reading “Jewel Plummer Cobb: African American Cancer Researcher and Scientist “→
Artist Bisa Bulter brings together artistry and creativity through her quilts. Made from bold and vibrant patterns her quilts portray people from all walks of life. Bisa Bulter was born in Orange, NJ. She was the youngest of four siblings. Her artistic talents became apparent early. At age four she won a blue ribbon in the Plainfield Sidewalk art competition. At age five, she was named the “artist of the month” at her nursery school. Continue reading “Bisa Butler: The Artistry Displayed Through Her Quilts Will Amaze You!!”→
Dr. Dale Okorodudu is committed to connecting with black male youth and encouraging them to consider careers in the medical field. Currently, only Black Men In White Coats was established in 2013 by Okorodudu after he learned the number of black men entering the medical field was decreasing. In 2011 there were even less black males entering the medical field than in 1978. His mission for the organization “is to inspire the next generation of physician leaders and to diversify the field of medicine with a special emphasis on Black males.”. The event is open to all genders. Currently, on 6% of physicians in the U.S. are black. The 2019 event was held at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Several other medical schools from around the country also participated including, University of North Carolina, Duke University, University of Colorado and UCLA.
Students, parents, teachers, medical professionals, and community leaders participated in the event. The event welcomes students who are in the 3rd – 12th grades. Students are able to connect with mentors and other supports that can aid them in pursuing education and career options in the medical field; while parents are also given resources and guidance to understand how to support their child in pursuing a career in the medical field. For more info on the organization, visit their website: http://www.blackmeninwhitecoats.org/
Following the end of slavery in the U.S., many formerly enslaved people felt betrayed by the government because they received no financial or material assistance as they exited slavery. The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension of the United States was chartered in 1898 to advocate for the payment of pensions to the formerly enslaved. The pensions were to serve as reparations for the economic robbery of slavery and, would also help with burial costs. Formerly enslaved woman, Callie House became a nationally recognized leader of the organization. The group claimed to have a membership in the hundreds of thousands who made financial donations to fund the organization. It unsuccessfully sued the government for access to money gained through a tax on cotton confiscated during the civil war. Continue reading “The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension Association Of The United States”→
Arnold Donald (1954 – ) has served as the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines since 2013. Three times per day, his high school would play a message: “Gentlemen prepare yourselves. You’re going to run the world”. Clearly, Donald is doing just that as he leads the largest leisure cruise line in the world. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, his mother was a homemaker and his father was a carpenter. His mother and father greatly valued education made sure that Donald and his siblings excelled at academic achievement. In addition to Donald and his 4 siblings, his parents were also foster parents, taking in more than 25 foster children.
Kenyan inventor and engineer Roy Allela is developing technology that allows sign language to be translated into audible speech. Inspired to explore ways to improve communication with a niece who is deaf motivated Allela to explore how technology might be able to bridge the gap. Neither Allela or other family members know sign language. The “Sign-IO” gloves use Bluetooth technology to translate signals from sensors on the glove when a person is making sign language gestures. Continue reading “Kenyan Engineer Roy Allela Creates Gloves That Translate Sign Language To Audible Speech”→
Roscoe Conkling Giles (1890 – 1970) was born in Albany, New York. He was the first African American to become certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1938 at the age of 27. After graduating from high school in Brooklyn, NY, he was awarded a scholarship to Cornell University and would be the first African American to earn a medical degree there. He was 16 years old when he began his studies at Cornell. While there, in 1907, Giles became one of the first members of African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. which was started at Cornell in 1906. Continue reading “Dr. Roscoe C. Giles: First African American To Be Become Certified By The American Board of Surgery”→