Black History Month Is Never Over

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you and not harm you. To give you hope and a future.”

You certainly don’t need me to tell you, but I’m going to say it anyway, “Black History is American History and should be celebrated ALL year”. So let’s not say goodbye to Black History Month, let’s say farewell to February and continue to celebrate the wonderful history of Black people right on through March and beyond. God’s promise is to give us hope and a future. He has predestined our greatness, and we all make history when we realize the power within ourselves to change the world.

I want to celebrate people in my family who have made history or are making history right now. WORD! Brothers and sisters, you can make history today!

I have to start with my mother, Frances Simmons. She was the prettiest, sweetest, and best fisherman/woman ever. She was famous for being able to put her line down and fish at a moment’s notice. She would go on trips to Moses Lake and bring back coolers full of crappie, and then share them with family and friends. She taught her family the love of fishing as well, so all of us grew up knowing how to cast a line. She also taught us we could do anything a white person could do, and our race did not exclude us from experiencing the same opportunities afforded whites. She made me enter a local fishing derby in the late 60’s and early 70’s called the Huck Finn/Becky Thatcher fishing derby. It was held at Greenlake. She and my aunt designed costumes for three years straight, until I finally won first prize for my Becky Thatcher costume and took home a new bicycle.

Imagine that! A Black Becky Thatcher! Becky Thatcher was a fictional character in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book, and of course, she was white. My mother pushed the envelope and said, “we are going to win this”, and eventually we did! I was timid about entering the contest, not knowing what people would think and how they would react. My mother’s determination and encouragement that I could do anything regardless of my race, made my fear and trepidation melt away. After I won the bicycle, they ended the derby!

Hellyne Summerrise – My aunt and Seattle civil rights icon. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during his visit to Seattle in the early 1960’s. She also participated in the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., May 12 – June 24, 1968 shortly after King’s assassination. The Poor People’s Campaign focused on economic justice for poor people. Hellyne and her husband Bob, were among those who had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela when he visited Seattle after he was released from prison. She also participated in protests against apartheid and was placed under arrest at the South African embassy in Seattle. In addition to her civil rights work, she opened her own Montessori school on King Street, called “The Little House.” This sister was bad! A great activist and educator.

Robert “Bob” Summerrise, Jr. – My uncle Bob was one of the first Black on-air personalities in Seattle. He was employed by several radio stations, most notably KYAC. His smooth voice melted the hearts of the local jazz and blues fans. He owned two record shops in Seattle (family can correct me if there were more). The first was Summerrise World of Music on Jackson Street. He later opened The Wholesale House on Rainier Avenue, across from Borrachini’s bakery. His son, Robin Summerrise, continues his legacy and has also melted hearts with his smooth, sweet interactive style that he brings to deejaying. One of my favorite memories of Papa Bob was when he took me to see The Jackson Five. I was around nine years old. It was the one and only time I saw Michael Jackson live. Bob was friends with many great musicians, most notably, Seattle music legend Quincy Jones. He was also friends with the late Rev. James Bevel, a civil rights activist and friend of Dr. King.

My sister, Fai Mathews and cousin Marsha Miles (Summerrise) were models in the Zebra fashion shows in the late 60’s/early 70’s. They were among the first to bring African fashion to the forefront in Seattle. They were known for sewing and modeling some of the finest original fashions around the Seattle area. If you wanted to check them out, you could find them at the Black and Tan, a popular Black nightclub that was located on 12th Avenue near Jackson Street. Fai continues to participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, often accompanied by her grandchildren or other family members. Local newspapers seem to get a picture of her almost every year.

My cousin, Cece Summerrise, is a pharmacist. She worked very hard to attain her dream, enduring long days and nights studying, while still holding down her job. Cece was committed to the promise she made to her grandmother Hellyne, that she would finish school and become a pharmacist. It was not easy, but she persevered and succeeded.

My niece, Francesca Richard is a musical artist (Deb’s Daughter), record producer and songwriter in Los Angeles. She has penned songs for Uncle Charlie Wilson, and most recently she penned Johnny Gill’s new single, “Perfect”. She also wrote and performed the song “Tell Me” from the 2004 movie, Walking Tall, starring Dwayne Johnson!

My sister, Marguerite Richard is an accomplished gospel singer and soloist. She has graced the stage with gospel greats Richard Smallwood, Keith Pringle and Sandra Crouch to name a few. She was a member of several local choirs including True Destiny, FAME Choir, Northwest Connection, Washington State Mass Choir, and Hosanna. One of her first choir directors at Franklin High School was the great Pat Wright, director of the Total Experience gospel choir. Marguerite recorded the album “He Got Up” with the GMES (Gospel Music Educators Seminar) Mass Choir. She is also a civil rights activist and a member of the Black Action Network. She is known locally as Sister Pearl. Take a listen to the song “Stand Still” when you click on the link. You might hear her singing!

My daughter, Kaila Nsimbi is Director of Leadership and Career Development for Rainier Scholars, a 12-year program offering a pathway to college graduation for hard-working, low-income students of color. They provide intensive, academic preparation, leadership development and personalized support to the scholars. Her father, Gregory Davis, is a founding board member of the organization. Kaila and her husband, Ken Nsimbi, are worship leaders at Rainier Avenue Church in Seattle. They are both involved in youth ministry and church leadership. Kaila serves on the boards of The Robinson Center and Team Read. Ken serves on the boards of World Relief and New Horizons.

My son, Jerrell Davis, is a renaissance man. He is a musician, whose stage name is Rell be Free. He is also an educator and activist. He is one of the founding members of WABLOC, Washington Building Leaders of Change, an organization created to address the educational inequity of Black and Brown students in Seattle Public Schools. Jerrell performed as headlining artist for the Martin Luther King Jr. rally at Westlake Park last year. A few years ago he shared the stage with Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Jerrell performed his moving piece, “Cell Blocks Like Slave Ships”, which hauntingly depicts America as a nation moving from slavery to mass incarceration. Jerrell has studied under Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Fund, and helped bring the Freedom Schools model to Seattle. He is an inspiring educator and mentor at Rainier Beach high school, bringing hope to our marginalized youth.

My niece Danyelle Benware is in the veterinary research field. She is an associate scientist at Amgen. Within her department she is the clinical lead and training manager.

My great niece Asmian Obanion-White, who attends Rainer Beach High School, recently won first place in the August Wilson monologue competition at the Seattle Rep. She will go to New York in May to compete in the finals.

My great nephew Davon Fuller is a sophomore at Rainier Beach High School who has continued to excel in academics and community outreach and engagement. He works as an engagement worker with the Corner Greeter program at RBAC. He is a delightful and inspirational young Black man.

My sister- in- law Ronda Benware, along with my mother-in-law, Jeanette Davis, have faithfully served at Hamilton United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, where four generations of the Davis family have attended church. Ronda is a founding member of REST (Restore and Elevate our Spirit to Trust in God), a women’s a ministry that was developed to provide support and encouragement to women, while also inspiring them to spiritually find inner strength. Jeanette Davis has continued her leadership with the Talent Guild, which hosts the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon and and awards financial scholarships. She retired from the Compton Unified School District, where she was an educator for many years. She is an avid reader of Black history and has encouraged her children and grandchildren to read as much as possible about Black history.

Jerry Lee Davis, my precious father-in-law was the first Black district manager of the Southern California Gas Company. He encouraged everyone to be the best they could be and he provided an excellent example of a caring husband and father.

Gregory Davis, my husband and best friend has helped create so much history. In the 1990’s he developed the Rites of Passage Experience (R.O.P.E) youth development program at C.A.M.P. He is an expert on the Rites of Passage Experience program and the Kwanzaa holiday. He has been one of the local organizers of the Kwanzaa celebration in Seattle for more than 30 years. If you need to know the seven principles of Kwanzaa, ask Gregory. He currently leads the Rainier Beach Action Coalition, an organization which has helped enhance the Rainier Beach neighborhood by focusing on critical issues that affect the wellbeing of the communities there: transportation, education, economic development, housing, food justice, public safety and the arts.

Gregory has been the epitome of a good father. In addition to unconditional love, he provided his children with a wealth of Black and African history/education by constantly exposing them to the books, art, and cultural experiences of our people. Some friends nicknamed him “The Mayor of Rainier Beach”, but he is quick to remind everyone it’s “Da Mayor” (shout out to Ossie Davis in Do the Right Thing).

As you can tell from this brief Black History tribute to my family, we are making history every day and we can’t and won’t stop. Remember the scripture at the beginning? It was Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, to prosper and not harm you. To give you hope and a future.” The plan is for OUR hope and OUR future! Don’t ever forget it! Black History Month is Never Over! Face the Facts!

Enjoy FAX by history maker Rell be Free:

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marguerite Lori Richard (Queen Pearl )
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 09:22:35

    Yes. I am the Queen on Queen Anne Hill. I was delighted to read such thought provoking words. I would have loved to hear your history to into your adulthood. Forgive me if I missed it. I want to thank you for what you have done here.


    • Shawn
      Mar 08, 2020 @ 23:34:50

      Thank you for your encouragement and support. Our family history is important to me, and I feel blessed to be able to share it.


  2. Marguerite Lori Richard (Queen Pearl )
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 09:37:45

    I would also say that Cora Jackson was the one that was doing all of that ad libbing. She was good for it. She knew how to sing all parts. She was my director during my time with F.A.M.E. Choir and used to live across the street from my sister’s Fai’s house back in the day and attended Roosevelt High School with me. She has since moved from Washington State.


  3. Marguerite Lori Richard (Queen Pearl )
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 09:42:10

    I am the founder of The Black Action Network and the Seattle Poverty Action Network.


  4. Gregory Davis
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 15:46:10

    Thank you. Very lovingly done.


  5. misshappya
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 20:32:16

    Wow … I’m so glad you shared all that…who knew! Smile. You should put this all in a book with pictures for us to read and share. Love it and im so blessed and proud of our family!!


    • Shawn
      Mar 08, 2020 @ 23:39:42

      Thank you Adriene, you have supported and contributed comments on my blog from the beginning. This is only part of the family history, and hopefully I will talk to you and others and share an update.


  6. Danielle Jackson
    Mar 06, 2020 @ 08:12:36

    Thanks for sharing your story, it is very inspiring and the legacy that you all have made generation after generation. That’s what’s up.

    My take away was: To keep making black history. We have the power to be all we can be and do and to encourage our family along the way to do the same. To be that light for greatness. Leave a legacy that will make an impact in your community and the world if you can.

    New learned word: trepidation – a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happened. I had to look that one up…lol

    I so appreciate all that you do Momma Shawn.


  7. Shawn
    Mar 08, 2020 @ 23:28:17

    Thank you for your words of encouragement and support Danielle. You are also making black history with your work in the community.


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