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Black History

Lee Cherry, Engineer and Advocate for African Americans in Science, Dies at 76

He loved to travel, read, promote science, technology and the environment, highlighting the accomplishments of African Americans in this country and throughout the African Diaspora.

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Black Freedom Struggles, Martin Luther King March. Photo Courtesy UCF Libraries.

Lee Cherry

Oakland native Lee Cherry, a dedicated scientist, engineer and advocate for science education among African American youth and an active leader in the Black Freedom Movement in his youth, passed away on July 24, 2021. He was 76.

As a young teenager, Cherry was greatly influenced and involved in the Black Freedom movement. He became involved with his older brothers in the Afro-American Association, which was influential in Oakland during the early 1960s before the start of the Black Panther Party when the struggle for racial justice was evolving from the Civil Rights Movement to the rise of Black Power.

The Afro-American Association brought leaders like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali to the East Bay for public discussions of philosophy, religion, economics, politics and other issues. Members and associates of this group – Ron Dellums, Judge Thelton Henderson, and Cedric Robinson – became some of the most influential cultural and political Black leaders of their generation.

Cherry organized Dignity Institute of Technology in 1967, which was later renamed the African Scientific Institute (ASI) in 1975. The ASI, which is on the web at https://sci-tech.squarespace.com/, is a network of scientists and technologists who participate in their communities. The organization is particularly interested in addressing the problems of developing countries, with special emphasis on capacity building, offering a forum for the exchange of technical information and expertise.

Historically, ASI concerned itself primarily with mentorship programs for minorities entering the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Over the years, the organization expanded its objectives to become project-development oriented.

The fourth of 11 children born to Knorvel Sr. and Lucy Cherry, Lee Cherry attended Clausen Elementary School, Oakland Middle School (now Oakland International HS) and graduated from Oakland Technical High School. He attended UC Berkeley and graduated from San Jose State University. Working as an electrical and environmental engineer, he had a professional career that spanned IBM, Lockheed Aerospace, PG&E, and the Department of Defense. He managed electrical defense contracts for the U.S. Navy.

Cherry met and married Lauran Michelle Waters of Wash., DC. The couple has two daughters, Dr. Aminah Cherry and Dr. Jamilah Cherry-Woodard.

He loved to travel, read, promote science, technology and the environment, highlighting the accomplishments of African Americans in this country and throughout the African Diaspora.

He was a dedicated researcher, which enabled him to converse with anyone on multiple subjects. If he didn’t know the subject matter, he would thoroughly research the topic so he could engage. He had an insatiable love for learning.

Lee Cherry leaves to mourn his passing his wife, Lauran Michelle; daughters Dr. Aminah Cherry, Dr. Jamilah Cherry (Terrell); brothers and sisters Loye, James (Cynthia), Bernice, Betty, LaVance and Louis; mother-in-law Faye Waters; uncle Al; grandchild Amari Woodard; nieces Chaleda/Corey, Aleiya, Baniah and many more nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and colleagues.

The Oakland Post’s  coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

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9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

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Art

David Drake: A Potter Who Inscribed His Work With Poetry

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”

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A pot created by David Drake. Wikipedia photo.

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”
According to some collectors and scholars, this message demonstrates “Drake questioning his heritage and personal history … signifies [his] positivity despite facing the many brutalities of slavery, including the loss of personal identity.” Further, by etching what is clearly a personal expression, Drake defied a South Carolina law forbidding Blacks to read and write.
South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1740, prohibited educating enslaved Africans, punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison. Most Southern states in the early 1800s restricted Black literacy.
Drake’s date of birth is unclear. It is said that it was during the first half of 1800. The first legal record of him (June 13, 1818) describes “a boy about 17 years old country born … mortgaged to Eldrid Simkins by Harvey Drake.”
The (Harvey) Drake family owned a plantation in Edgefield, S.C. The term “country born” refers to enslaved Blacks born in the United States rather than Africa. David Drake lived and worked in Edgefield’s pottery factories for almost all his life.
David Drake was first enslaved by Harvey Drake, who alongside Abner Landrum, owned a large pottery business. Known to be a religious man, Landrum was the publisher of a local newspaper, The Edgefield Hive. Scholars speculate that he taught Drake to read the Bible, even if doing so was a punishable offense.
After Harvey Drake’s death, David Drake was enslaved by Landrum. In 1846, Landrum passed away. Drake was then purchased and enslaved by Landrum’s son Franklin, who was abusive. While owned by Franklin, Drake never inscribed his works. But Drake’s life, his works, blossomed in 1849, when he was sold to Lewis Miles.
Miles owned the pottery factory, Stony Bluff. There Drake created his best works once again inscribed with poetry. The number of pieces produced increased from one every few years to seven in 1859. Having produced alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1870s, Drake is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work. He became a free man when the Civil War closed (1865).
According to Drake scholar Jill Beute Koverman, Drake created “more than 40,000 pieces over his lifetime.”
When Drake was alive, his pots sold for around 50 cents. Today they fetch as much as $50,000 and have auctioned for as much as $369,000. A butter churn with the inscription “This is a noble churn / fill it up it will never turn,” sold for $130,000.
Various collections including his work can be viewed at museums including the Smithsonian collection of the National Museum of American History in Wash., D.C.
It is thought that Drake died in the 1870s because according to scholars, “he is not found in the 1880 census.”

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Black History

After 9/11, Some Found Healing by Helping

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.

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Merrill and Erica Belfield share in their volunteer work as Bible teachers from their home in the Bay Area. Two decades after the tragic events of 9/11, they find happiness in comforting others using the Bible's message of hope.

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.
 
Just 24 hours earlier, practically in the Belfields’ backyard, the disaster at the World Trade Center happened.

At the time of 9/11, Merrill and Erica Belfield from the Bay Area were volunteers at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn.

“I went to the window in our building where we had an unobstructed view of the towers,” Merrill said. “I not only saw the plane as it hit the second tower, but I vividly recall seeing people jump out of the tower in an attempt to save their lives. The events of 9/11 shifted the trajectory of our lives and it’s something we will never forget.”

In the days ahead, what helped the Belfields cope was maintaining their spiritual routine of daily Bible reading, prayer and helping others. “When you go through a tragedy, it brings you joy when you focus on others and not solely on yourself,” Erica said. “It was a blessing to comfort our neighbors in this way.”

Helping others has long been linked to better emotional well-being in psychology research. The book “The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others” describes “powerful” effects, even for helpers who have experienced trauma themselves.

Trauma was all too common among the many volunteers at Ground Zero. Roy Klingsporn, a Brooklynite who volunteered at Ground Zero nearly every day for two months, recalled on one occasion approaching a man who sat slouched in a golf cart near the site’s makeshift morgue.

“When I asked him how he was doing, he burst into tears,” said Klingsporn, now of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He said, ‘I’m tired of picking up body parts.’”

Within days of the attacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up teams that spent hours each day in Lower Manhattan, Bibles in hand, consoling everyone from the families of victims to first responders battling physical and emotional exhaustion. It was a work that changed how the organization approaches disasters, with an organized comfort ministry now being an integral part of its response to natural disasters and even the pandemic.

Recalling the gut-wrenching days he spent as one of those volunteers near the smoldering remains of the Twin Towers still stirs deep feelings in Robert Hendriks.

“It was very emotional and extremely difficult for me, but the faces of those I passed on the street said it all,” said Hendriks, now U.S. spokesman for the Witnesses. “They needed comfort, and the best thing I could give them was a hug and a Scripture.”

For Brown “Butch” Payne, the events of September 11, 2001, tore open old wounds, bringing back vivid wartime memories the Vietnam veteran had tried to forget.

From his East Village apartment, Payne recalled the crowds of frantic people streaming north from Lower Manhattan. “That sight stirred up a lot of emotions in me,” he said. “It shook me to the core.”

Payne found relief in rendering aid the best way he knew how. “Sharing the Bible’s message of hope softened the blow for me,” he said.

Offering a shoulder to cry on brought Klingsporn comfort too. “It was satisfying to be of help to my community,” he said.

Two decades later, the Belfields are still battling the mental toll that 9/11 took on them. “Whenever Merrill hears a plane in the sky, he looks up, not knowing if another attack will happen,” Erica said.
 
“But what helped us back then is the same thing that helps us today — focusing on others. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been able to write comforting letters to those who’ve lost loved ones. Many of the feelings we felt back then are the same ones people are struggling with today.”

Payne feels the same. In 2016, after 50 years of marriage, he lost his beloved wife to cancer. On days when his grief feels overwhelming, Payne writes heartfelt letters that lift his neighbors’ spirits — and his own. He shares Scriptures and resources that have helped him, like articles on coping with trauma and loss on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Encouraging others to look to the future helps me to do the same,” he said.

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