UNION — On Friday morning, Union County High School hosted “A Time of Reflection,” a celebration of Black History Month.
The program was narrated by Kiana Brown, and student groups that participated or performed included the UCHS JROTC, the UCHS Choir, UCHS Indoor Percussion, Sims Middle School Step Team and the UCHS Step Team.
The event also included students acting out moments which are significant to black history. First, Maisie Fisher discussed South Carolina native and jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, who was portrayed by Tykeezie Thompson. Analeigh Tucker discussed 1936 Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, and a scene of his Olympic win was recreated by Brenden Cromer, Nick Fowler, Gray Ransom, Trey Smith and Daniel Inman. Later in the program, narrator Kiana Brown discussed pop icon Michael Jackson, and Tayshon Smith danced in costume as Jackson.
The program also included information about those who are significant to black history from a local standpoint. Tatiana Ferguson spoke about former Carlisle Mayor Janie Goree. Kristin Giles spoke about former teacher and county council member Dora Martin-Jennings. Faculty member Sonya Glenn discussed her father, Paul Glenn, who was the first African-American to serve on Union City Council and also the first African-American to serve as principal of Union High School.
The guest speaker of Friday’s program — Joe Woods — was introduced by Principal Floyd Lyles.
“This is an honor for me because Joe and I started the journey a long time ago,” Lyles said, explaining that he grew up with Woods in Carlisle. “This young man pushed me and inspired me. We were like brothers. I practically moved in their house. He’s an inspiration to everyone who is around him. He’s pushed me and challenged me in so many different ways.”
Woods is a graduate of Union High School. He went to the University of Mississippi on a full scholarship for football, and after two years transferred to Clemson University, finishing with honorable mention as an All-ACC wide receiver. He also coached college football for three years. Woods owns his own businesses, holds two master’s degrees, has written three books and is working on his fourth. When he spoke to the students at UCHS on Friday, he encouraged them to get out of their “boxes.”
“We all have boxes in our lives,” Woods said. “Many are based on our social and economic environments — how to think; where to put certain things in our lives.”
Woods asked students, “What is black history?”
“It is a glue that joins together different pieces of broken, fragmented glass that creates a beautiful mosaic of mankind — a beautiful mosaic of humankind,” he said. “This glue has done more to unite humankind than it has ever done throughout history to divide humankind. History is all of us — all of us as human beings.”
Woods then looked at a number of cardboard boxes that were stacked around him as props, each with a different label such as “friends,” “history,” “education,” “mind,” “money,” and “news/media.” Woods kicked over some of the boxes.
He said he could think of several boxes in his own life. He shared that he failed first grade, went to summer school and failed again. At the time, he did not read on the appropriate grade level. He said he was told that he was too small to play sports.
“Those were boxes I had to get out of,” Woods said. “What is your box that has been put around you?”
Woods then talked about figures from history — George Washington Carver and Frederick McKinley Jones. He explained that Carver was born into slavery, never knew his father and could not be educated in white schools. He said Jones never knew his mother and his father abandoned him on the steps of a Catholic church. Those boxes, however, did not keep the inventors from changing the world in ways that still effect it today.
“These boxes can offer us so much security in life — from your friends, from your family, even how you interpret everything that is presented before you,” Woods said, pointing out that statistically speaking, he should have four to five children and be in prison.
Woods quoted Helen Keller saying that security is mostly superstition and does not exist in nature. He said people must first understand they are in a box in order to get out of it.
“If you don’t get out of your box, you are going to be an imitator,” he said. “Do you ever ask yourself why we are imitators when we were designed to be totally different? That’s why your fingerprint is different than mine. Frederick McKinley Jones and George Washington Carver understood they were in a box. The best educated human being is the one who is able to understand his environment and how it is hindering him.”
Woods said he was not designed to be a failure, but to be a success, and he told those in attendance they were also designed to be successful. He said there are three keys to getting out of a “box” and being successful.
“First, you have to question who you are and what you’re doing every day,” he said.
Woods then mentioned the second key — desire.
“You have to serve your desire,” he said. “I had two teachers who had a desire to see me succeed at UHS — Sissy Matthews and Kay Dillard. They helped me with math and helped me study for my SATs. They stepped outside of the box by investing in me.”
The third key Woods spoke of was to make decisions and have a plan. He asked students who wanted to go to college.
“What’s your plan?” he asked. “Show me a person without a plan, and I’ll show you a person not going anywhere.”
Woods told students that money was not the objective, adding that money is one of the last topics of conversation for people who have the right desire. He said the focus should instead be on ideas, like those of Carver and Jones which improved and continue to affect the world.
Woods concluded by telling students that the most magnificent and alluring place in the world is a graveyard. He explained that graveyards are filled with many who have died with books that were not written, cures not invented, businesses not started and many other opportunities that could have changed the world but were not pursued.
“Because they stayed inside a box,” Woods said.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.