Black History Month: A Conversation With Local Unsung Civil Rights Heroes

Feb. 8, 2014 / By

As a young African American woman, February is an especially important month to me. Because of the consequences of slavery, I do not know much of my own family history. But every year, Black History Month comes around to highlight all of the amazing things African American people have done for this country and I get to hear stories about famous black leaders as well as those unsung heroes that might not get as much recognition.

In the videos below and above, VoiceWaves interviewed two of those unsung heroes: Evelyn Knight and Peggy Preacely. Both women, who also happen to live in Long Beach, shared their roles and histories in the civil rights movement and gave advice and encouragement to youth interested in fighting for social justice today.

Evelyn Knight is a Long Beach resident who has been done more than her fair share of community work and fighting for change. She has marched side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to get African Americans the right to vote. She was born in Africa Town, Alabama, three miles north of downtown Mobile, Alabama. It was formed by West Africans who were among the last known illegal shipment of slaves to the United States. These people created their own tribal community and retained their customs and language following the American Civil War.

Peggy Preacely is originally from New York where she too stood up for a cause. She landed in jail once or twice as a young adult for sitting in resistance at a “white only lunch counter.” Mrs. Preacely worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Preacely’s work helped to get African American voter registration during the 1960s.

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Alyson Bryant

Alyson Bryant was raised in Long Beach and is a graduate of Long Beach Poly High. Alyson has learned and seen a lot since high school, witnessing first-hand gang violence and the effects it had on her friends and fellow classmates– from going to jail to being killed. As a result, she has a strong passion for at-risk youth and her community. She is a youth mentor for at the California Conference for Equality and Justice and focuses her work on Long Beach youth in schools and detention centers. Since high school, she has obtained a A.S. degree in criminal justice and is now working on her B.A. With the opportunity she has be given by VoiceWaves, she is able to tell story about Long Beach and the issues it faces and speak for the communities whose voices are often marginalized.