Gadsden State hosts Black History events

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Gadsden State Community College’s Valley Street Campus and Title III program host Black History events this month featuring two of Gadsden’s native sons.

Former Gadsden resident Steven W. Hoyt (Birmingham City Council, District 8) was featured on Feb. 6 in the Learning Resource Center. On Feb. 20 at 10:30 a.m. “A Journey to Washington with Robert Avery” will be held in the Gadsden Job Corps Gymnasium. The event is open to the public. 

Gadsden City Councilman Avery is serving his sixth term representing District 3 and currently serves as chairman of the city’s finance committee. He served from 1986 to 2002, and again from 2006 to 2014. Avery is an advanced CMO (Certified Municipal Official) and he retired from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company after 30 years. He was educated in the Gadsden public school system and is a graduate of Carver High School and also attended Gadsden State Community College. Avery has served on and chaired numerous city, county, and national boards ranging from the Alabama League of Municipalities to the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials. 

Avery’s interest in activism and civil rights began many years ago as a teenager growing up in Gadsden. He was 15 years old when he hitchhiked from Gadsden to Washington D.C. along with several friends to take part in the historic March on Washington in 1963. Avery was interviewed by several news organizations about his trip and is seen briefly in “The March,” a documentary film made by filmmaker James Blue for the United States Information Agency. The film aired on CNN in August 2013 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the event. 

Councilman Steven W. Hoyt was elected to the Birmingham City Council in 2005. He chairs the Budget and Finance Committee and serves on the Administration, Economic Development, and Utilities Committees.  Hoyt, a dedicated community leader, has worked for more than twenty years to impact change that will yield positive results for the community of Birmingham.  His efforts have earned numerous honors and awards including; 2005 City of Birmingham, Minority Business Advocate of the year and 2005 Central Alabama Region, Alabama Community Education Association Volunteer of the Year.

Hoyt was educated in the Gadsden public school system and graduated from Miles College in 1985, with a B.A. Degree in Social Science and a minor in Sociology. His post graduate work was completed at Alabama A&M University in Urban and Regional Planning.  He serves on several boards including the Jefferson County Economic Development and Industrial Authority.  Hoyt also serves as the pastor of West Princeton C.M.E. Church in Birmingham.

The Valley Street Campus, the second oldest component of Gadsden State Community College dating back to 1960, was founded by the late Eugene N. Prater as the Gadsden Vocational Trade School— a private training facility for black veterans in Etowah County.  For 10 years, until desegregation in 1970, the Trade School was the only local technical institution of higher learning enrolling Black Americans in the Gadsden area. Gadsden State honors Prater each year by presenting an award named in his honor to a technical faculty member teaching at the campus who displays excellence, dedication, and a commitment to teaching. In 1997, the Valley Street Campus was designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

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