Athens City Schools’ Andrew Jackson Davison Club is hosting a Black History Month Celebration Tuesday, Feb 23, at 3 p.m. for the people of Athens.
Alongside the Andrew Jackson Davison Club, Ohio Valley Bank, Mount Zion’s Athens Black Wall Street Project and Ohio University’s Diversity and Inclusion and Multicultural Center have come together to sponsor this event.
The event was originally thought up by members of the Andrew Jackson Davison Club at Athens Middle School. The first of these events began last year.
In his days, Andrew Jackson Davison was the only Black attorney that practiced law in Athens. However, he wasn’t included in the composite photo of the Athens bar association in 1877.
“They told us it was about a man named Andrew Jackson Davison, he worked in law... and when they were taking their photos he wasn't included in the composite of all the other people because of his skin color,” Fabiola Keesey, a ninth-grader at Athens High School and a co-founder of the Andrew Jackson Davison Club, said. “We were really interested in that and we wanted to take part and make a change, obviously, and so we worked for like months.”
Keesey and others, as well as eighth-graders, were able to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson Davison last year in the courthouse to honor his work in Athens.
“Once the students got going and started meeting people from the black community who were interested, it turned into the students organizing a Black History Month event here at the middle school,” Angela Hall, Andrew Jackson Davison Club adviser, said. “It was a wonderful success. I'm a townie, so I've been in Athens my entire life. I've never seen the university, the Athens community, the school system, the city of Athens, the county engineer or the county commissioners (together), and they all came together to support this event. I've never seen anything like it, and it was phenomenal.”
This event holds history and meaning and the goal is to continue to educate the people of Athens on the racial injustice in society. The event will have poetry, speeches, music and more.
One of the Andrew Jackson Davison eighth-grade club members, Teresa Ongoro, stepped up and took on the responsibility of reading a poem that she wrote at the event. Kristyn Neckles, an OU psychologist, will also be speaking at this event.
Brandon Thompson, also known as DJ B-Funk, is a local Athens DJ and former Athens High School student who works with a lot of antiracism groups in the Athens schools and will be the event’s main speaker.
Trevellya Ford-Ahmed, board director for the Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society, will also be speaking during the event.
“I will probably speak about a project that Mount Zion will be doing that will involve, hopefully, some of her students, as well as, perhaps other students at Athens high,” Ford-Ahmed said. “We have received funding from the Appalachian-funded network to develop a film. The film we have titled and are calling at this moment, Black Wall Street Athens/Albany. In the film… we hope to tell the story of all of the buildings and structures that were built by free-born and enslaved Black Americans in this region… what has happened to so many of them, as did happen to Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma and many other black neighborhoods.”
Mount Zion is producing this film to help educate Athens about Black Wall Street and Athens; Andrew Jackson Davison will play a pivotal role in the film. Ford-Ahmed will talk about the film's involvement in the Athens school district and how they want them to participate in the making of this film.
The event will be live-streamed on Instagram and Facebook for those who are not able to come out to the courthouse. Any participation is encouraged and appreciated because the Andrew Jackson Davison Club has worked hard to create a memorable event amid the circumstances.
“I know one thing is that I think the community of Athens is great,” Emma Ulbrich, a ninth-grader at Athens High School and a co-founder of the Andrew Jackson Davison Club, said. “I know with doing this project last year, seeing the reaction from the Black community of Athens, it was really inspiring. Then, also being able to hear some of my peers and friends from school talk about the racism that they have experienced at the school has made me passionate about it. I have grown a lot through doing this project and learned a lot.”