The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia recently held its annual Black History Month program, where it honored a number of living legends from the region.
Lodge Grand Master Quincy L. Gant led a procession of the organization’s elected and appointed officers into the University of the District of Columbia Theater of the Arts for the Feb. 10 program. After Assistant Grant Chaplain Ronald Taylor offered the invocation, the audience stood for a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” widely recognized as the Black national anthem.
Michael Quander, an Emmy-winning reporter for WUSA-TV (Channel 9), served as the master of ceremonies while the Howard University Wind Symphony provided music during the program, titled “Black Migrations,” mirroring this year’s Black History Month theme.
The lodge honored several community leaders in the fields of politics, business and faith with its 2019 Community Service Award.
The awardees included Akosua Ali, president of the NAACP’s D.C. branch; Virginia Ali, co-founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl; Raymond Bell, founder of R. Emmanuel Bell Consulting; author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles; Rev. Dr. Johnsie W. Cogman, pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church; D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton; D.C. businessman and boxing promoter Eugene “Rock” Newman; civil rights activist Frank Smith; and Thomasina W. Yearwood, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Center.
Prominent architect Albert Cassell and comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory were honored posthumously.
“I am so grateful today for the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge here,” Ali said after the program. “I am so grateful to a community for supporting us for 60 years and so pleased that we were there in the civil rights movement and to help those that we could possibly lend a hand to, I am just grateful for today.”
Ali and Smith are part of the documentary “Traveling While Black,” which premiered this month at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The film, along with several others, celebrates the creation of The Green Book, a travel guide published by Victor H. Green in 1936 to help African-American motorists find safe havens during the height of segregation.
“Today we pause to give eternal thanks for the blessings we have received individually and collectively, every mindful that our modern-day successes are an extension of the sacrifices of those who migrated and faced insurmountable odds for the pleasures we enjoy,” Gant said.
Renowned local historian and lodge member Alonzo Tehuti Evans, who gave the keynote address, talked about the significance of Black History Month, particularly with this year marking 400 years since of the beginning of slavery.
“Blacks were classified as uncivilized savages to justify slavery,” Evans said. “It is important for us as an organization to recognize those among us whose life story contributes to our uplifting. I tried to show that those who were part of the great migration were part of a generation of blacks who were not born into slavery but were free.
“These were people who reveled in their music, reveled in their faith, reveled in their commerce, they came to U Street, which was called Black Broadway because of all the Black-owned businesses,” Evans said, adding that many of these pioneers were masons. “The founder of Industrial Bank was a Grand Master, Thurgood Marshall was a mason. The result of the migration showed our potential as free people.”