Tampa Bay  Times Columnist and Bureau Chief Ernest Hooper keynotes during  a Black History Month Celebration

Tampa Bay Times Columnist and Bureau Chief Ernest Hooper keynotes during a Black History Month Celebration

“Black history is American history.” ~ Morgan Freeman 

We need not be a person of color to appreciate that Black History Month is part of American history as well. From our country’s inception, blacks as well as whites have been part of the ongoing and evolving story of the United States of America.

During Black History Month, we are as much inspired to look back upon racial struggles and economic disparities as we are to reflect upon the ongoing progress of individuals and communities moving toward the ideals of a Constitution based upon the notion that “All men are created equal.”

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Black History Month celebration at the Safety Harbor, FL Aha! Museum. We enjoyed a speech from the city’s mayor, the acapella vocals from a family of five young boys who drove in from central Florida and the voices of two students who extolled virtues of leaders of the past and provided fresh purpose for today.

Equally memorable and perhaps even more weighty was a keynote speech given by Ernest Hooper,  career reporter and one of the Tampa Bay Times’ bureau chiefs. He shared an unlikely family story that became part of the “Black history is American history” concept.  His grandmother’s early presidential voting for Barack Obama in the 2009 presidential campaign was picked up by CNN and later spread to other national media outlets and the White House.

Hooper’s grandmother was 106 at the time, one who could fully appreciate what had been an unfathomable thought during her early life. The vote casting event served as a seminal moment in which America’s age-old ideal of equality for all men hit an historic apex.

Ernest Hooper’s keynote proved more than nostalgic or symbolic. A committed husband, father and active member of the Tampa Bay community, he underscored his own concern for uplift among sectors of black society that are lacking in guidance. Ernest embodies his own ideals, mentoring young boys whose futures will be positively impacted by the time and interest he invests in them today.

Borrowing upon Morgan Freeman’s words, Ernest Hooper regularly lives out his own credo. A respected, trustworthy and familiar face to Tampa Bay’s greater community, he reminds us that Black history is American history – and each of us can find ways to raise the bar to our collective future.

I hope you listen in to the Black History is American History podcast below. It further develops the hopeful theme and inspires an appreciation for America’s greater global role.

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Maura Sweeney is a Podcaster, Author and Speaker

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