Madera turns out for celebration


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Lucille Murphy, 101, Madera’s eldest African American resident, is surrounded by her family following Madera’s first Black History Month Celebration at McNally Park on Sunday.

Under the backdrop of a perfect February afternoon, Madera held its first Black Lives Matter Celebration during the officially named Black History Month.


Almost a hundred people came out, practicing social distancing and wearing masks, to celebrate and honor African-American history and the oldest living African-American resident in Madera, Lucille Murphy.


“This is a beautiful occasion,” said newly-sworn in City Councilwoman Anita Evans. “I am so thankful. When have you seen us all come together like this? We have the fire department. We have the police department. I thank them so much. We came together as a collective unit. We’re all God’s children. Without the love of Madera, what would we have?”


In addition to the many residents, Evans, who helped organize the event with Yvonne Neely, Katrina Parker and Stanley Mackey, also invited many churches in the area to attend.


“We have five or six churches out here today and I’m thankful to God that they are here today.” Evans said. “We have people from all over to be here for Madera. They have traveled to come here. Tell everybody that you love them.”


Other dignitaries at the event included new City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Artemio Villegas, Madera City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez, Madera Police Chief Dino Lawson and Madera County Superintendent Leticia Gonzalez.


“We are gathered here for this historical moment,” said Sammie Neely. “I think about the times growing up as a kid and how we implemented the first black student union, how we watched the civil rights moment and thought about where we came from. You have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.”


Neely also pointed out that the fight is not over and there are a lot of issues the country has to overcome, including voting rights and housing.


“We’re still fighting that attitude that we’re not legitimate to vote,” he said. “It’s ashamed that this country was founded and built on the backs of slaves. But, yet we never got the representation. There are 68 people of Congress out of the 436. That’s a large representation since we are 13 percent of the population. Turn the page, we make up 40 percent of the incarcerated. What’s wrong with this picture? The justice department of this nation was established to enforce the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment. We were placed in this situation and we were terrorized and persecuted.


“The voting rights are still not ratified. It’s going to voter suppression. We have no place to fall. If we have no place to fall, we have to stand. Stand for equality. Stand for jobs. Stand for education. Stand for representation. We go through this and are in denial. The Fair Housing Act. Why do we need a Fair Housing Act if everyone was created equally per our constitution? Yet, we still discrimination in housing. Now, we see a new thing. Discrimination in financing allows us not to get the wealth we deserve. These things are multiplying on themselves.”


Although Neely pointed out that the nation had a black president in Barack Obama, the issues that were addressed in his administration were offset by the Donald Trump administration.


“We had a black president and we’re still paying for that,” Neely said. “We elected a black President and the cry became Make America Great again after he left office. It don’t mean nothing if our people are being incarcerated. It doesn’t mean nothing if we still have the low valued housing. It doesn’t mean nothing if we can’t get jobs.


“Until we get treated equal, like the constitution says, we are beating our heads against the wall. Our hope is in our children. Don’t accept mediocrity. Go for overachieving. We have to go in a different direction. We can’t settle for second best. As we celebrate our history, we have a lot of accomplishments, but we can’t stop now. We can’t give up the fight now. Every time we sit down, we get knocked down. It’s harder to get up from a sitting position than from a standing position. So, stand with all you can. Be all you can be. It starts with your relationship to God. Without that relationship, your morale values are confused and construed. We want to stand morally sound, be all we can be as people, not accept mediocrity, but stand for what we can be as a people.”


Evans read a proclamation made by new Madera Mayor Santos Garcia stating that February was now going to be considered Black History Month by the City of Madera.


“Everyone should be thankful,” Evans said.


Evans also read a proclamation honoring Murphy and her 101 years on Earth.


“I appreciate this,” Murphy said. “I have so many people here today. They came from far and near.”


Joyce Dale, representative from State Senator Anna Caballero’s office, and Jerome Rasberry Jr., representing State Congressman Jim Costa and State Assemblyman Adam Gray, honored Murphy with proclamations.


“You are a part of Madera’s Black history,” Dale told Murphy.


In a surprise, both Dale and Rasberry, along with Madera County Board of Supervisor Leticia Gonzalez, gave proclamations to Evans on becoming the first female African American on Madera’s City Council.


“Thank you for being an example for others and for being a part of Madera’s black history. We are so proud of you,” Rasberry said.


“I am truly humbled to stand before you as the first African American woman city councilman,” Evans said.


Evans also honored Galilee Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Robert Walker on 40 years at the church.


The celebration honored both African-American History prior and current in an event that Evans hopes will continue on.


“The turnout grew throughout the day,” Evans said. “It was such a beautiful day. I estimated 75 people, easy. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, there would be more. Everybody was happy. This was a beautiful day to be out here.”


Villegas summed it up the best that saying Madera gathered as brothers and sisters on a great day.


“It’s a great day because we gathered together as brothers and sisters,” he said. “I grew up in Madera with African-Americans, Mexicans, whites and everybody. Thank you for being here today to honor Lucille Murphy.”


Proclamation from the Office of the Mayor


Black History Month whereas African-American history is a very large part of history and should be studied throughout the year. Since 1976, February has been designated as a month in which events should be recognized and celebrated. Whereas, Black History Month is an occasion to rediscover the enduring studies of African- Americans and the gifts of freedom, purpose, opportunity and have bestowed on the future generations and whereas, as a result of their determination, hard work, perseverance, African-Americans have made valuable and lasting contributions to our community and our state, achieving exceptional success in all aspects of society, including business, education, politics, science and the arts. Whereas, all residents of the City of Madera are encouraged to reflect on past success, challenges of African-Americans and look to the future to improve society so we live to the ideals of freedom, equality and justice.


Therefore, I resolve, I Santos Garcia, Mayor of the City of Madera, on the behalf of the entire City Council, hereby proclaim February as Black History Month signed this third day of February, 2021.

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