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Each year, in celebration of Black History Month, Prince George’s County hosts a wide range of lectures, performances, art competitions and other events. This year’s Black History Month programs were kicked off Feb. 2 at Harmony Hall Regional Center in Oxon Hill, Md. Keynote speaker and former County Executive Wayne K. Curry spoke at the opening of the annual Black History Month exhibit at Harmony Hall Regional Center, and participated in the unveiling of the 2014 Black History Month poster, along with Director of Parks and Recreation Ronnie Gathers and County Council Chairman Elizabeth Hewlett.

The poster, honoring this year’s theme of “Celebrating Civil Rights Milestones: From Emancipation to Administration in Prince George’s County, 1864-1994,” was created by a team of Suitland High School students under the direction of art teacher Michael Burroughs and project artist Alonzo Davis. Students Alfred Dudley III, Miles Stephenson, D’Angelo Simms, Brenda Bravo, Taahira Howard, Shenny Giribaldi, Khali Johnson, Mikayla Chapman, Malaaya Adams and Nyssa Thompson collaborated to create the original, mixed-media artwork used in this year’s Black History Month poster, which depicts local and national events and individuals who worked together to create a modern Prince George’ s County.

The gallery exhibit includes original and reproduced artifacts of the time before emancipation, of the Jim Crow era of segregation and the struggles of the Civil Rights era. It also includes a multimedia exhibit on the life and career of Wayne K. Curry, who became the county’s first African American County Executive in 1994. That was not the only time Curry made history in Prince George’s County. As small children in 1959, he and his brother were the first African American students to integrate their elementary school, an experience he recounted during his remarks.

“The police, in an effort to minimize the tension of our walk to school, escorted us on that long walk each day, by bumping us in the backs of our legs with their police cars,” Curry remembered. Eventually, families along the route witnessed this attempt by Prince George’s County’s law enforcement officers to intimidate the young brothers; the harassment was reported and stopped.

Curry spoke of the circumstances of growing up in, “a small, virtually all white and rural,” segregated county in the midst of change, of coming into leadership in that community as it evolved into one which is now “large, urban, and predominantly African American,” and of the importance of continuing to work for a better Prince George’s County for all citizens.

“Living in one community and going to school in another, we learned to be bilingual. We learned to be bi-cultural,” Curry said. “We have a community here whose essence we have to protect and cherish. We have an obligation to present a model to this country.”