Black History Month Partner Spotlight: Reggie Smith of The Bethlehem Center

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Engagement | 0 comments

February is Black History Month, and we’re sharing more about some of our outstanding Black leadership from our partners, board, and community.  

Reginald F. Smith has been the Executive Director of The Bethlehem Center since 2015, and has transformed the organization’s work and focus in many ways. This month we wanted to ask him some questions about what Black History means to him.  

What does Black History mean to you? What does it mean for your work? 

Black History means a lot to me. Growing up in a family of educators, I was constantly reminded of the importance of knowing where I came from and the History of my people. As I look at the History of my people and my culture in America, I am encouraged to be the best version of myself I can be. This History shows me the resilience and brilliance of my people. It further shows me that even through adversity, my people are strong and are able to accomplish incredible things. This was further instilled in me by the Fraternity, which played a significant part in creating what we now call black history month. Most people do not know that what we now call Black History Month was first called Negro History and Literature Week in 1924. This week was created by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc and was spearheaded by a Brother named Dr. Carter G Woodson, who we now call the father of Black History Month. As a third-generation member of this Fraternity, this History and its importance have been told to me since birth. This week is still celebrated annually in November throughout our country and is now known as Achievement Week.

How has your experience shaped the way you lead? 

“In my role as Executive Director of the Bethlehem Center, it is my responsibility to keep Black History and the importance of my culture at the forefront of the work we do. I instill in my students and community that they are history makers and that Black History didn’t stop in 1960 with the Civil Right Movement. For me, Black History is not just in February but every day of the year.”

How have things changed in your years working in Chattanooga and for Beth? 

I have seen more of the community embracing change and acknowledgment of the real History of Chattanooga, and that is a good thing.

What makes you proud to be a Chattanoogan? 

The city is starting to embrace the culture more. We have a long way to go, but I see positive momentum from the city and a willingness to from people to learn from and engage with each other more.”

How can we ensure a better and brighter future for Black Chattanoogans? 

Listen to the Black community, invest in the Black community, and don’t let the emphasis on the Black community fade after February. #BlackHistory365

How are you celebrating Black History Month? 

“I celebrate Black History but cause it is a celebration of the accomplishments of my culture and helps to enlighten every one of the values added by African Americans that have led to making our nation as great and as powerful as it is today.”

Do you have any recommendations (books, movies, museums, etc.) for people this month?

  • Read Stamped from the beginning   
  • Visit the Equal Justice Institute 
  • Visit the  Smithsonian Museum of African American History    
  • Read and Watch the 1619 project 

If you’d like to learn more about The Bethlehem Center’s work in the community, you can find them at @thebethlehemcenter on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Visit their website at thebeth.org.