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Diversity improving in city

Leaders in the black community see Black History Month not only as opportunity to educate the general public about the its own history but to promote improvement within its own ranks.

“We need make other groups aware of our contributions, but we also need to remind our own people of our contributions,” said Larry Robertson, pastor of Emmanuel Apostolic Church in Bremerton.

Many people are unaware of the contributions of black pioneers like George Washington Bush and his son, William Owen Bush, who played key roles in Washington’s statehood, Robertson said.

Throughout this month, the Bremerton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is sponsoring events beginning with tonight’s gospel music extravaganza at 6 p.m. at Emmanuel Apostolic Church, 1023 Sixth St. to promote awareness of the contributions of the African-American community.

“It’s a matter of knowing who you are and we have a responsibility to bring education to our people that will help them understand our brilliance and the contributions we must make,” he said.

Organizations like the NAACP play a key role in promoting that awareness, especially to young people, he said.

“We are a brilliant people, we are an industrious people and that is the message we now have to teach our people,” he said.

Young people need to understand that it is OK to think smart and excel in life without worrying about being looked at differently for their achievements, he said.

“We have found that some young folks will dumb down because if they show how smart they are, they are afraid they will be ostracized,” Robertson said.

Ray Rogers, president of the Bremerton chapter of the NAACP, said the classroom environment is closer to what it should be than the outside world.

“When we get in the workplace that it is when it crops up,” Rogers said.

Even though the NAACP doesn’t see many instances of overt racism, discrimination remains a problem, he said.

“We do see certain discriminatory practices that come down to economics,” he said. “Some people want to keep things for themselves and not allow qualified folks to come to the table on an even playing field,” he said.

Even though there are institutional programs in place to address these problems, Rogers said he is not sure that they go far enough.

Robertson said even though things are getting better, there is still a need for growth.

To help promote that growth, Rogers said the Bremerton chapter of the NAACP is making an effort to return to the basics.

“We are recommitting to our purpose- ensuring the political, educational, social and economic quality of all citizens,” Rogers said.

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