PVA President reflects on Black History Month
By David Zerfluh
February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on the story of great Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other remarkable African-Americans.
King was assassinated a month and a half before I was born. While I didn’t grow up with him, I did learn about him from my parents and in books. Though small in stature, King was a giant of a man in helping bring awareness and civil rights for all Americans. He overcame huge odds and obstacles through courage and determination to improve everyone’s lives and put this country on a better path.
King was one of many African-Americans who made lasting contributions to the history of this country. Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) history and story are no different.
African-Americans have held every leadership position in PVA, including the two highest national employment levels of executive and deputy executive director. Currently, two African-Americans serve on the PVA Executive Committee.
A key individual to highlight in this regard is Gene Crayton, PVA’s first African-American national president. Gene was the PVA immediate past president when I was a national vice president and played a huge role in mentoring and shaping my abilities to serve PVA the best I can.
Gene was proud to be the first African-American PVA national president and inspired others to serve in leadership roles throughout the organization. I had the honor to catch up with him in St. Louis last summer. We spent time talking about a lot of things that day and cracked each other up with a few jokes.
One segment lacking in PVA leadership history is African-American women. Though many African-American women have held employment positions at PVA’s national and chapter levels, none come to my mind for the national board of directors or executive committee.
Keep in mind, my research wasn’t extensive. If you can prove otherwise, please let me know. Regardless, I’m confident that one day in the future, African-American women will change PVA history and come forward to lead us to greater days.
I’ve always believed in the parallel between the plight of African-Americans and those with disabilities. The quest for equal rights persists, and I’m grateful that PVA addresses our concerns in a very thoughtful, diplomatic and effective way.
We’ve made strides like King and other prominent, respectable African-American leaders who used nonviolent advocacy.
This month, I would like to ask all of you to learn about at least one great African-American leader or contributor to this country and share that story with others.