HERMISTON - With music playing softly in the background, Joshua Mayes, 10, read a poem on the struggles black women have faced through history.

The poem, "Our Grandmothers" by Maya Angelou, is one he chose personally to read in honor of Black History Awareness night Thursday at the Hermiston Public Library.

The event was a spinoff of the Black International Awareness Club (BIAC) of Hermiston to acknowledge the diversity in our area, Ann Mayes said. The evening was informal and included poetry and other readings, music and discussion.

Jesus Rome, president of BIAC, read a selection on the life of Jesse Owens, who was an inspiration to Rome.

"When I was in high school in this community, people knew me as a runner," Rome said.

He moved to the area about 20 years ago when he was about 10. This area is smaller and is less diverse than larger metropolitan areas, he said. He never had to face prejudiced growing up here.

"I don't ever remember being called the 'N' word or 'wet-back' until I went to college," he said. "Even though our community is not as diverse, I didn't think about being black. I hope my children don't have to go through prejudice."

Anthony Rome, 14, chose to read a poem "Yard Bird Skull," by Maya Angelou, and Ann Mayes read "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes.

"I want kids to know that race is only one thing of who you are," Ann Mayes said. "You carry your race but it is not all of you. It is the hope you are a new generation that will not stigmatize."

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