Revelle luncheon honors city's first black firefighters

    Revelle celebrated Black History Month on Feb. 6 with a luncheon to honor the first black firefighters in San Diego. Patrons of Plaza Cafe met five fully geared firefighters and a few TV cameras as they entered the cafeteria.

    Anna Macmurdo
    Guardian

    Jessica Birchler organized the event with sponsorship from the Revelle Cultural Awareness Network and the Revelle College Council.

    Items scheduled for the lunchtime event included performances from a group of step dancers from area schools and the UCSD gospel choir. Robert Hooks and George Robbs displayed their artwork in a separate venue that also included a table representing black literature and culture in Africa and the Americas.

    The program that garnered the greatest interest was the ceremony to honor the men who first integrated the SDFD.

    Anna Macmurdo
    Guardian

    Fire Chief Robert Osby spoke, lauding those who dedicated themselves not only to protecting life and property in San Diego County, but also to building a more diverse department. He declared to the crowd of over a hundred students, faculty, friends and family that the fire department no longer looks at color except to evaluate a fire based on the hue of its smoke.

    Two of the first blacks in the fire department gave testimonials about the joys and trials they faced in the early years of their careers as firefighters.

    Charles Robinson, retired deputy fire captain, described his 30 years with the department as a good challenge.

    “”I enjoyed the work and was always intrigued with helping people,”” he said. “”Everyday I wanted to go to work.””

    Though the event started late, those in attendance, such as Robert Logan, current firefighter-EMT, spoke well of its outcome.

    “”It’s a pretty good program [because] we get to meet the first black firefighters and hear about their trials and tribulations,”” he said. “”It helped me to focus more on my career.””

    Freshman Kristina Wolff delivered a poignant rendition of “”Amazing Grace”” to all in attendance.

    The response of students was generally positive, reflecting the mood of the participants and organizers, but diversity continued to be a topic of discussion.

    “”We need more things like this,”” said Marshall sophomore Ryan Chan. “”I look at Plaza today and it’s totally different than a normal day. There’s a lot of support, a lot of enthusiasm. We should do more.””

    Revelle senior GeBren Sykes, Vice President for the African-American Student Union, observed what he saw as a problem with this campus.

    “”African-American enrollment is declining [It has declined by 47 percent over the last 10 years],”” he said. “”The interest is not there.””

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