Portraits of the first African-American city government leaders to hold their positions are on public display this month at city facilities.
The city is celebrating Black History Month this February with displays on the first floor of City Hall, in the third-floor City Commission Chambers, and in the lobby of the Battle Creek Police Department. The buildings are at 10 and 34 N. Division St., and are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mayor Mark Behnke at the Feb. 4 commission meeting presented a proclamation to a committee of city staff that organized the displays, and community leaders from the Sojourner Truth Institute. The national Black History Month theme is “African-Americans and the vote,” an appropriate observance in light of the upcoming elections, starting with the March 10 primary.
“We wanted to make some acknowledgements,” Fire Chief Brian Sturdivant – the city’s first African-American fire chief – said during the presentation. “We do have some exhibits… that just recognize some of the achievements of African-Americans in the Battle Creek Community, within city government, and some from around the world.”
The city group hopes to keep momentum and participate in other community events this year, and in years to come.
“We want to expand on the energy, and make people feel a part of it,” said Dennis McKinley, the city’s community asset administrator.
The displays in City Hall and the BCPD also include books about significant African-American people, and portraits of President Barack Obama, Battle Creek Mayors Maude Bristol and Donald Sherrod, and Julia Milner, director of the Hamblin Community Center and Senior Citizens Center, among many others.