Black History Month: So much to celebrate

Tri-Citians especially should be aware of the now classic phrase, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

It was coined to support and promote the United Negro College Fund, and it was created by one of the Tri-Cities' own -- Art Fletcher.

He was a big man in every sense of the word -- size, intellect, personality.

It is as important to remember Art Fletcher now as it is to remember Dr. William Wiley, whose great contributions to our community and to the scientific and humanitarian world are celebrated today at Battelle Auditorium.

Fletcher and Wiley are gone now. (Wiley was the inspirational director of Battelle, a formidable scientist and leader. A major celebration of his life takes place today at Battelle Auditorium. Fletcher was the first black person elected to a city council in the Tri-Cities and later was appointed chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by President Richard Nixon.)

This is Black History Month, a time when sometimes long overdue respect is paid those who went before us and those who walk beside us, no matter our skin tone or ethnic persuasion.

Which brings to mind a publication from the United Negro College Fund that came our way recently.

It lists some everyday and not-so-everyday inventions that we all take pretty much for granted.

Among them: The traffic light, blood bank, ice cream, peanut butter, doorknob, microphone, elevator, clothes dryer, lawn mower, pacemaker and typewriter.

Also: The guided missile, mailbox, air conditioner, automatic transmission, curtain rod, baby carriage, lawn sprinkler, fountain pen, dust pan, hand stamp, first open-heart surgery, cataract laser, fire extinguisher, doorstop, home security camera and golf tee.

Then add: The fire escape, potato chip, food preservation, synthesized cortisone, guitar, railroad telegraphy, envelope seal, printing press, bicycle frame, rocket catapult, insect destroyer gun, ice cream scoop, window cleaner, laser fuels, folding chair and gas mask.

The list goes on and on: From the lunch pail to the airplane propeller, etc.

We suspect that the context of this editorial prevents there being any surprise about what these inventions have in common.

Even if it didn't, we're sure including peanut butter in the first group gave it away.

Yes, each item on this list was invented or improved upon by black Americans.

Think of that the next time you use an almanac, or squeeze a lemon or a doctor uses a portable X-ray machine on you. (Yes, those too.)

To support and learn more about black American innovators, the United Negro College Fund invites you to its website: www.uncf.org; or call 800-332-UNCF(8623).

The UNCF advises: "Of all the things that the human mind has created, perhaps the most amazing is the one that has yet to be created. And that possibility is a terrible thing to waste."