Black History Month presents a unique opportunity to celebrate the achievements, culture and history of the African American and Black community in February. AARP encourages everyone to celebrate Black History Month by participating in activities that teach us about the resilience and power of the black community and help us gain a better appreciation of the culture.
To honor Black History Month, AARP MN recognizes one local hero, Charles Mays, and his commitment to serving others during his life.
Charles Mays was a champion community activist in south Minneapolis. Along with being the President of the AARP Sabathani Chapter in Minneapolis, Mays also served as the Co-Chair of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Park Legacy Committee, chaired the youth committee, was the Great Plains youth field director, and vice president of the institution’s state conference. He worked on a diverse range of projects including issues relating to discrimination, fair housing, voting rights, social work and employment.
One of his most notable projects was completed in 2015, after the opening of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. playground. This playground features elements from African American inventors, but getting to this stage of enhancing the park was not easy. Over his years on the board Mays has had to fight to keep King’s legacy alive at the park.
Mays’ leadership was one of the main contributors to the vibrancy of the AARP Sabathani chapter. The hallmark of this chapter has been its service to others and its advocacy on behalf of older adults across the South Minneapolis community and the rest of Minnesota.
The AARP MN team learned of Mays’ passing on the same day that we, in partnership with AARP Sabathani chapter and other organizations, were hosting a highly successful Healthy Aging event. The event brought community partners together to provide information and skills to help and empower people in this community to choose how they live as they age. Mays wasn’t able to see the success of that event, but his fingerprints were all over it – just as they have been all over the remarkable service that the AARP Sabathani chapter has provided to the community and this state for years.
After Mays’ passing in June of 2019, it was evident that the community had lost a tireless advocate, a community connector, a sage counsel and a welcoming friend. His legacy reminds all that knew him to be curious and act with conviction. AARP MN has known Charles as a leader, who helped change the perception of what it means to age in communities we work tirelessly to shape and feel proud to call our own.