Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) gave attendees at a Feb. 19 awards ceremony at Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, 5820 W. Madison, a brief master course in history. The first lesson? History is made in the present—not the past.

Davis received a Leaving Their Stamp on Our World Trail Blazer Award from the office of 1st District Commissioner Richard Boykin along with two other recipients—former 1st District Commissioner Earlean Collins and Keshia Warner, a West Side native and the principal of Whittier Elementary in Oak Park. All three of the night’s awardees are first district residents. 

“We wanted to pay tribute to her and to tell her to keep on doing what she’s doing,” Boykin said of Warner. “There’s no job greater than being a teacher.”

The event, which also served as a Black History Month commemoration, was emceed by Miss Black Chicago 2013 Ameshia Cross.

Cong. Davis, during his remarks, encouraged the approximately 60 people in attendance that history is made in the here and now by people sitting next to them.

“We don’t have to celebrate heroes and sheroes from long ago,” he said. “There are heroes and sheroes that we walk among every day; we just don’t know that they’re giants.”

Davis referenced Rev. Leon Miller, pastor of the Mt. Ebenezer Baptist Church, who gave the invocation.

“He and his brothers grew up in Mississippi and on the West Side,” Davis said of Miller. “Three of them are ministers—some of the most outstanding preachers in America. One is a physician. They all live in this community, they all walk these streets each and everyday of their lives. Here is a family of achievers—a whole crew.”

Davis named also mentioned the litany of post offices throughout Chicago, several of which he a hand in designating, that are named after those heroes and sheroes of the here-and-now.

“I’m glad you gave Earlean Collins an award, because Earlean’s first husband, state representative Otis Grant Collins, was the first guy I started doing political things with,” Davis said. “To keep his legacy alive, I named a post office after him in the Lawndale community— The Otis Grant Collins Post Office.”

The federal lawmaker, who self-deprecatingly quipped that he needed another award “like I need a hole in my head,” insisted that heroes aren’t born—they’re made.

“We create heroes,” he said. “The main post office downtown is named Cardiss Collins Post Office,” Davis noted. It was named in honor of his late successor, the first African American woman to represent the Midwest in Congress.

“People need to know that she existed. The post office on Madison Street we named the Mary Alice Moore Henry Post Office, so people will know that you don’t have to look outside of yourself,” Davis said.

“The post office right here at Laramie we named after Rev. Milton Brunson. We also named the school next to the church where he used to be the pastor, the Milton Brunson Academy. You don’t really have to look to Frederick Douglass, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King to find heroes — just look next door. Look at the people that you see each and every day.”