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EDITOR’S NOTE: To recognize Black History Month, the MDJ asked 20 community leaders how they will celebrate and what BHM means to them. Today we feature Powder Springs Mayor Al Thurman, who was elected as the city’s first Black mayor in 2015.

For Mayor Al Thurman, learning about Black history combines two of his favorite things: history and travel. The Powder Springs mayor said he’s always had an interest in the former and uses the latter as a means to pursue that interest.

History, he added, is something to be absorbed not only through reading, but from conversations and oral histories. He’s travelled to Africa in the past and taken that approach to learning — he seeks to find people who can pass down history through storytelling.

“I find the elders, I try to connect the dots,” Thurman said. “Some things, they’re not in history books, because a lot of our history is not recorded.”

Travel is less feasible during this particular Black History Month. But Thurman said Black history is something people should be cognizant of and learn about throughout the year. History can tell us how we reached the present moment, he said.

“One of the things that I think is really important to know, is what others have already done to pave the way,” Thurman said of Black history. “Because some of the deep wells of freedom that we enjoy, these are wells we didn’t dig. Someone else dug them.”

Thurman said he’s lived through some of the civil rights developments that younger generations now study as history. He grew up in Alabama and “witnessed a lot of stuff, even at a young age, where I saw those types of things that were going on. So, it’s not something I read in a book, I knew it was real.”

He hopes other leaders use Black History Month to think about the future and work toward progress.

“Systems that have been in place for years, they need to be readjusted, to make sure people are included, that there is equity,” Thurman said.

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