The District hosted a slew of tributes and events over Memorial Day weekend to pay respect to U.S. veterans who died in service. The National Memorial Day Parade returned yesterday to Constitution Avenue NW after a two-year hiatus, featuring performances by Eli Young Band, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmie Allen, and the United States Army Band, Pershing’s Own.
The parade’s grand marshal, Lt. Col. James H. Harvey III, is one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots from the 332nd Fighter Group. Harvey and three of his pilot buddies were also chosen to fly in the Air Force’s first “Top Gun” contest in 1949. They won the propeller competition and scored the greatest number of overall points, but they didn’t receive credit for more than four decades, according to the Air Force. The competition turned fatal when one plane crashed, and both of the pilots died, the Post reports.
Memorial Day wasn’t the only day of remembrance the D.C. area celebrated last weekend. The Maryland Council of Elders hosted an African Liberation Day in Baltimore on Sunday to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963, and a worldwide Pan-African movement toward unity and freedom.
This celebration has a special place in D.C. history: A half-century ago, the first ALD brought thousands of people to Malcolm X Park. They marched down 16th Street NW and U Street NW and jump-started a movement, historian George Derek Musgrove writes in the Post. Similar demonstrations were held across the U.S., in Canada, and the West Indies, but the rally in the District was the “largest and most consequential,” Musgrove writes. The rallies were a training ground for a powerful group of anti-colonial activists in D.C. who, in the 1980s, mobilized against the U.S. invasion of Grenada and against the Reagan administration’s policy toward South Africa, Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique.
“We all come together and then people start talking and they tell their stories and they find that they’re not alone,” says Abena Disroe, a core organizer of this year’s ALD and longtime healer activist and storyteller. “And within these stories … there’s organizations out there where people will say, ‘Oh, you need to talk to them, you need to talk to them.’ So it’s a way of not just being around people and positivity and healing but also getting the connections to get the help that you need.”
On Sunday, Howard University students, Teatro La Bolsa performers, and longtime ALD organizers and observers, hopped on a bus from D.C. to Lafayette Square Park in Baltimore. Proverbs Reggae Band played rasta roots reggae, vendors offered summer BBQ fare and patties, and chants of “Africa must be free!” filled the green space.
Rafiki Morris, MC for the day, spoke of fighting for liberation following a boxing demo by Marvin McDowell, a member of Maryland’s Boxing Hall of Fame and executive director of Umar Boxing. Teatro La Bolsa performed a theatrical piece about the work of activist Claudia Jones, encouraging audience members to participate in a scene. The theater troupe urged people to yell out suggestions about how characters should fight against oppression in a scenario involving farm workers and an exploitative supervisor.
“This means everything to me, for unity is always the propeller to push forward. People need to come together … to talk about unity in our communities, how to organize our communities to be united for all the right reasons,” Disroe tells City Paper via text.
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- The Nationals are inching pitching prospect Cole Henry through the minors despite impressive numbers. [Post]
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