Black History Month celebration offers some firsts

Black History Month celebration offers some firsts
February 22
03:00 2018

For the past five years the city of Winston-Salem have honored pioneers from the cities Police and Fire Departments.  On Sunday, Feb. 18 the city held their annual event at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church to honor African-American retirees from both departments.

The children from the local community centers were also recognized for their coloring and essay submissions of their favorite African-American athlete.

There were a few firsts this year.

The Police and Fire departments had recruiters at the church to provide information and answer questions about becoming a firefighter or police officer.

And Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina A. Thompson was at the event for the first time as the new police chief.

Thompson said when you hold a leadership position in law enforcement or the fire department, it means a lot to be able to go back and honor those who cleared the way for many others to progress especially in the African-American community.

“For me the commitment by the public safety departments of Winston-Salem is really the least we can do,” said Thompson.  “I stand here very honored and blessed to be one of those to walk in the path of so many giants that have come before me.”

Video tributes were shown about the honorees along with a tribute to Melton Sadler, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Emergency Management Director, who died Jan. 4.

Along with Sadler those also honored were firefighters Tony Thompson and John Powell.  Renee Shoaf, Oliver Redd, Jimmy Samuels and Jerry Evans were honored from the police department.

“It is definitely an honor to be recognized and whenever I was making my contributions I never thought it would resonate in history as it has,” said Engineer John Powell of the fire department.  “It makes me feel good that they take the time to do this.”

“Often times it is not popular to take special time out to recognize minorities but it is necessary,” he continued.  “It’s good to not only to look at the experiences that the people before us had but what kind of experiences are we giving to the people behind us.”So it’s definitely an honor and a privilege to know that our organization recognizes those for their contributions.”

Powell has been a member of the Winston-Salem Fire Department since January of 2011.  In 2017 he received the Fire Fighter of the year award from the North Carolina State Firefighters Association.  He was the first member of the Winston-Salem Fire Department to achieve this honor.  He says it was a blessing to receive that honor and is a testament to the department.

Retired Lt. James C. Samuels of the Winston-Salem Police Department  is a native of the city.  He joined the department in 1981.  He says after he retired he stayed away from a lot of police functions but felt this event was bigger than himself.

“I said to myself,  ‘Wait a minute Jimmy, it’s about you but it’s not about you’ and I wanted our young officers to see the black officers that came before them especially those who were able to achieve some rank,” said Samuels.  “I commend the city and our supporters on the political side and I was really proud to see their support and the genuine appreciation for the contributions that black first responders have provided for the city.”

Mayor Allen Joines and Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian H. Burke were on hand and gave remarks about the honorees. 

Chad Armstrong, Winston-Salem Fire Department Chaplain and Director of Ministry at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, says the first responders of the city are “foundational and fundamental to who Winston-Salem is.” 

“They make Winston-Salem the place that it is, so for us being Galilee as a church in this area we want to support the people who are doing heroic work,” he said.  “We want to support the people who are the bedrock of our community so because of their work we are able to thrive as a church.  We just want to partner with them in any way we can so we can be a blessing to them.”

The young men and women who were winners in the Black History art contest were Saniyah White and Zion Green (kindergarten to first grade), Cameron Simmons and Damian Sepulveda (second to third grade), Kayleigh Wright and Quinton Stone (fourth to fifth grade).  The Black History essay winners were Brandon Rorie and Tashayiah Ross (Middle/High School) and Christopher Caldwell and Yorel Harris (Middle/High School).

Stone says he entered the contest because he likes to color.  His chose to color Chris Paul because he says Paul is his favorite NBA player.  He says when he found out he won, he was “very excited.”  For Stone he said it “means everything” to him to celebrate Black History Month.

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors