Duncanville Celebrates Irish-American Heritage Month

Article Submitted by Zebulon (Zeb) Williams, Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) Chairman of the Commission

Irish-American Heritage month is a celebration and a way to honor the achievements of Irish immigrants to the United States.  The month was first officially celebrated in a national capacity in 1991.  Irish-American Heritage month is highlighted by Saint Patrick’s Day on the 17th of March.  Saint Patrick’s Day is a day that the Irish honored the saint who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century. Americans have since modified the meaning of the holiday to celebrate all things Irish.

As one celebrates Irish Heritage it is important to understand how so many from Ireland come to the United States in the first place.  Irish immigrants first came to the United States to escape religious persecution.  The first Irish settlers in Texas had settled the towns of San Patricio and Refugio in south Texas.  A much larger population of Irish had come to Texas and the United States during the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s.  During the time of the famine, Ireland lost approximately 1 million people to starvation and another million people had immigrated out of Ireland. In the years after the famine, the Texas population of Irish had tripled. 

As with many cultures, food and agriculture are a staple to the Irish way of life.  Archaeological evidence has shown that farming in Ireland started around the time when humans first began to settle.  Some families in Ireland can trace their farming and stock livelihoods back 200 generations.  In the Irish culture there is a special emphasis on food and drink.  While socializing over an Irish Whiskey or a Guinness beer many Irishmen will still eat meals that resemble that of their ancestors.  Meals involving stews, cabbage, cereals, and potatoes are a commonplace around the dinner table.

While the Potato Famine caused a lot of suffering during the 1800s.  Potatoes also saved many families.  The rich soil and heavy rains allowed families to raise and harvest multiple potato crops through the year.  The potato also supported large families who may not have had the land to grow other crops to feed and nourish an entire family.  To this day Irish households consume about two and a half times the amount of potatoes as other family households around the world. 

Grow Potatoes in a Bucket

New, fresh potatoes are a treat. You don’t need a whole field, just a few tools and a bucket!

You will need:

1 food grade 5 gallon bucket (potatoes dislike sunlight!)

a permanent marker

something to make holes in the bottom of the buckets (Drill)

dirt (Ideally a top soil, compressed peat, and manure mix)

2 potatoes

Step 1: Preparing the Bucket

First you’ll make some holes in the bottom of the bucket in order to drain the soil. It’s important because potatoes can rot if there is too much water around them. Once done make a mark 4 inches from the bottom of the bucket, and another 10 inches up from that mark.

Step 2: Planting Potatoes

Before making the bucket start by sprouting the potatoes until the potato has a ¾ inch sprout. Then fill the buckets up to the 4 inch mark with soil. Place the potatoes with the sprout facing towards the top on top of the soil, taking good care of the fragile sprouts. Then fill the bucket up to the next mark with soil. Finally give the potatoes a good amount of water. The soil will pack around the potatoes, so it can be necessary to add more soil. Remember, potatoes must not get any kind of light. Place the buckets so that the holes on the bottom are free to drain and in a light spot, but avoid direct sun. Give the potatoes enough water but don’t let them soak.

Step 3: Harvesting

When the potato plant begin to bloom the first harvest is ready!


The Duncanville Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) is a commission that serves under the City Council and is charged with:

  1. Establishing a partnership with the community to have the most engaged citizenry in America
  2. Develop an image as a family-oriented community locally and regionally
  3. Develop a brand for the community focusing on the goal of “Duncanville is the Basketball Capital of Texas” and leveraging this brand to enhance sports tourism
  4. Develop ways to engage citizens between 18-30 years of age to become more engaged in Duncanville
  5. Promote citizen participation and engagement in government; and to foster cooperative relationships among diverse citizens in order to fulfill the needs and desires and Duncanville’s diverse community

Duncanville Celebrates African American History Month – February 2020

Article Submitted by Dr. Lavern J. HolyfieldMulticultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) Commissioner

National African American History Month highlights the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality and the impact of this culture on our Nation’s history.

Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian believed it important to raise awareness of the contributions of African American civilization.  Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History – ASALH).  Through this organization, in 1925, Woodson conceived and introduced Negro History Week. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. 

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the ASALH continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

Above:  Excerpts from https://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about/

The City of Duncanville is a diverse community with a history of African American leadership over the years.  Today, we feature some of the current African American Leaders in Duncanville.

Mark Cooks , Duncanville City Council Member District 4

Text Box: (Photo submitted by Mr. Cooks)
Mark Cooks
  1. How long have you been a resident of Duncanville?  14 years.
  2. What attracted you to the city?  I moved to Duncanville because of a new housing community that was being built. I wanted my family to be a part of a growing community just like the one I grew up in.
  3. What does African American month mean to you? Black History month has many different connotations for different people, but its importance to me comes from a place where I want to be reminded of my heritage and the many sacrifices and accomplishments made by those who have journeyed before me and to whom I am forever grateful. Black History month is a time of reflection; whether good or bad, it reminds me to continue looking forward and celebrating as our country recognizes the many contributions and the sacrifices made to afford us the liberties and the rights we enjoy today.

Patrick Harvey, Duncanville City Council Member At-Large

Text Box: (Photo submitted by Mr. Harvey)
Patrick Harvey
  1. How long have you been a resident of Duncanville? My family has lived in Duncanville since 1989.
  2. What attracted you to the city? There are many fine, quiet neighborhoods and homes with character, centrally located in the DFW Metroplex.
     
  3. What does African American history month mean to you?  African American history is essentially the story of America told from the perspective of those who have contributed mightily while waiting to experience and enjoy the fullness of the American experiment.

Cassandra Phillips, Vice President, Duncanville ISD Board of Trustees

Text Box: Ms. Phillips (right) and Board President Carla Fahey organize coats for distribution to students.
Cassandra Phillips

1.      How long have you been a resident of Duncanville?  I have been a proud and active resident of the City of Champions for 21 years.  

2.      What attracted you to the city?  While searching for our first home, location and schools were a top priority.  We ended up winning on both with a great location and exceptional schools.  

3.      What does African American history month mean to you?  For me, African American history month means a time for us to celebrate our ancestors.  A time to reflect on the struggles, sacrifices, contributions, and accomplishments of those who paved the way for us. 


The Duncanville Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) is a commission that serves under the City Council and is charged with:

  1. Establishing a partnership with the community to have the most engaged citizenry in America
  2. Develop an image as a family-oriented community locally and regionally
  3. Develop a brand for the community focusing on the goal of “Duncanville is the Basketball Capital of Texas” and leveraging this brand to enhance sports tourism
  4. Develop ways to engage citizens between 18-30 years of age to become more engaged in Duncanville
  5. Promote citizen participation and engagement in government; and to foster cooperative relationships among diverse citizens in order to fulfill the needs and desires and Duncanville’s diverse community

Kwanzaa 2019 in United States

Observance: Thursday, December 26 through Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Article Submitted by Dr. Lavern J. Holyfield, Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) Commissioner

Kwanzaa is a week-long pan-African holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, in 1966.  Observed in the United States and other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas from December 26 to January 1, this annual celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture.    Dr. Karenga envisioned it as a time to reflect the  best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.

The focus of this period is the celebration of family, community, and culture.  Activities during this period are organized around the Seven Principles (pictured below). During the seven days, participants celebrate with feasts, music, dance, poetry, and narrative.  Kwanzaa has seven core principals and seven core symbols:

Day Seven Core Principles, or Nguzo Saba Seven Core Symbols
12/26 Umoja: Unity – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. 
12/27 Kujichagulia: Self-Determination – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.
12/28 Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility – To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and solve them together. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.
12/29 Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics – To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.
12/30 Nia: Purpose – To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.  
12/31 Kuumba: Creativity – To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.
01/01 Imani: Faith – To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.   Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.

There are seven candles – one black candle, three red candles, and three green. Each represents one of the seven principles guiding Kwanzaa. They are placed in the mishumaa saba in a specific order.

The holiday ends with a day dedicated to reflection and recommitment to the Seven Principals and other central cultural values, culminating in gift-giving and a feast.  

The Seven Principles
Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.

Source:  The OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org (http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml)
(https://www.interexchange.org/articles/career-training-usa/history-principles-and-symbols-of-kwanzaa/)

The Duncanville Multicultural Social Engagement Partnership (MSEP) is a commission that serves under the City Council and is charged with:

  1. Establishing a partnership with the community to have the most engaged citizenry in America
  2. Develop an image as a family-oriented community locally and regionally
  3. Develop a brand for the community focusing on the goal of “Duncanville is the Basketball Capital of Texas” and leveraging this brand to enhance sports tourism
  4. Develop ways to engage citizens between 18-30 years of age to become more engaged in Duncanville
  5. Promote citizen participation and engagement in government; and to foster cooperative relationships among diverse citizens in order to fulfill the needs and desires and Duncanville’s diverse community