Southfield leaders line the walls of the library Feb. 28.

Southfield leaders line the walls of the library Feb. 28.

Photo by Kayla Dimick


Black History Month tradition gets a local spin

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published March 6, 2019

 A portrait of Barbara Talley, Southfield’s first African-American city councilwoman elected in 1983 and the founder of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force, hangs above the Mark Twain bench in the lobby of the Southfield Public Library. The library featured several Southfield leaders in its annual display for Black History Month.

A portrait of Barbara Talley, Southfield’s first African-American city councilwoman elected in 1983 and the founder of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force, hangs above the Mark Twain bench in the lobby of the Southfield Public Library. The library featured several Southfield leaders in its annual display for Black History Month.

Photo by Kayla Dimick

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SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — You’ve probably seen a few familiar faces around the library lately. 

According to Adult Services Librarian Alicia Bell, it has been an annual tradition since 2014 to feature portraits throughout the library of leaders in the African-American community in celebration of Black History Month, which is in February. 

However, this year, a suggestion from a patron prompted library staff to feature more local influencers. 

Bell said seven new portraits were added this year: former Southfield Police Chief Joseph Thomas, Jr., who became the first African-American police chief in Southfield in 1991; City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins, who was elected as Southfield’s first African-American city clerk in 2017; Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, who became the municipality’s first female African-American mayor in 2017; John Everett Reeves, who was elected as Southfield’s first African-American city councilman in 1995; Barbara Talley, Southfield’s first African-American city councilwoman elected in 1983 and the founder of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force; Fire Chief Johnny Menifee, who became the first African-American fire chief in Southfield in 2016; and Judge Shelia Johnson, who became the first African-American judge to serve in the 46th District Court in 2002. 

Bell said she hopes the portraits help to shine a light on the many firsts in Southfield and Lathrup Village. 

“Locally, I think it’s important because we have many firsts here from people of color who haven’t been acknowledged and get lost in the fray of everything else,” Bell said. “We’re talking about a time in our history where we need to continue and celebrate their contributions. I always strive to make sure we see our community members put out front.” 

The portraits have been getting a lot of positive feedback, Bell said. 

“We get recommendations all the time with community leaders to be added to the collection. The feedback is very positive,” Bell said. “People love seeing the photos and getting the information. It’s what we seek here at the library.” 

At the Feb. 25 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Linnie Taylor commended the library for the portraits. 

“It’s a wonderful display of some of the talent that we have here in the city of Southfield, some of the people that have contributed to Southfield history,” Taylor said. 

Council President Lloyd Crews added that next year, he hopes the City Council will sponsor some type of Black History Month activities. 

“I think council needs to think about sponsoring something ourselves. I think we have a responsibility in that,” Crews said. 

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