Yak’s Corner
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 December 21 in History

 Today's birthday

For the week of Dec. 21, 2014

Maria Cadilla de Martinez (1886-1951): Puerto Rican. Educator, folklorist, writer, and activist. Maria Cadilla de Martinez made outstanding contributions to every field in which she worked. As a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, she inspired generations of students to study and preserve their cultural heritage. Her own research into Puerto Rican folklore and customs helped ensure the preservation of important aspects of the island's culture. Her writings included collections of folktales, retold in * contemporary language, and volumes of her own poetry, as well as scholarly books and articles. She was also a pioneering feminist who worked ardently for women's causes, including the campaign for the right to vote. *

Henrietta Szold (1860-1945): Jewish American. Activist. Szold was the founder and first president of Hadassah, the women's Zionist organization that had been responsible for fostering improved health care in Palestine. She also cofounded the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Thomas Rivera (1935-1984): Mexican American. Writer and educator. The son of migrant farm workers, Rivera devoted most of his life to education, which he saw as the key to bettering the lives of Mexican Americans. He became a university teacher and then an administrator, holding a succession of posts at public universities in Texas and then at the University of California, Riverside, where he served as chancellor for the last five years of his life. He is best known, however, for his novelOe.y no se trago la tierra (Oeand the Earth Did Not Part), based on his own youthful experience. Published in 1971, it won widespread acclaim, signaling the emergence of Latino writers as a vital force in the literature of the United States.

Joseph Smith (1805-1844): Mormon. Joesph Smith was the founder and first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). In 1830 he published the Book of Mormon, considered by members of the Church to be divine revelation.

Sarah Breedlove Walker (1867-1919): African American. Businesswoman and philanthropist. Madam C. J. Walker , as she preferred to be known, was an entrepreneurial genius whose business, the manufacture and distribution of a line of hair products for African American women, became the largest enterprise owned by an African American in the United States and an important source of opportunity for African American women. Having invented the formula in 1905, she began by selling her product door-to-door. Her company eventually had 3,000 employees, many of them women who were licensed to sell her products through home visits to clients. Madame Walker used her personal wealth to support African American causes, funding scholarships for young women and giving generously to the anti-lynching campaign of the NAACP.

Emperor's Birthday: Japan. This is a day of national festivities to honor the birthday *of the current emperor. The emperor gives speeches throughout the day, and houses and buildings are decorated with the national flag.

Scott Joplin (1868-1917): African American. Composer. Joplin was the leading composer of ragtime music. He is best known for his short rags,' but he also composed a ragtime symphony, Treemonisha, and was working on a ragtime opera at the time of his death.

Wendell Chino (1923-1998): American Indian (Mescalero Apache). Indian spokesman and activist. Chino, who was president of his tribe for 34 years, was a key figure in the movement to demand that the federal government honor its treaties with Indian nations regarding the use of land and other natural resources. He was hailed by Roy Bernal, chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council, as the Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X of Indian Country. When the Bureau of Indian Affairs' contracts for such activities as mining, lumber production, and water use began to expire in the 1960s, Chino refused to renew the contracts. Instead he formed companies to manage the resources that would be controlled by the Mescalero Apaches living in southern New Mexico. They built the Inn of the Mountain Gods, Casino Apache, a timber mill, Indian schools, a hospital, and a health center. Promoting red capitalism, or Indian control of Indian land, Chino traveled widely as a spokesman for Indian issues and served as president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Philip Vera Cruz (1904-1994): Filipino American. Labor leader and activist. Born in Illocus Sur in the Philippines and immigrating to the United States to work in the agricultural fields of California, Cruz served as vice president of the United Farm Workers union, working with its president, Cesar Chavez, to gain recognition of the union as the representative of the grape workers in California. With Chavez, he helped initiate the Delano Grape Strike that led to the formation of the union. In 1965, he joined the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO and led the successful Filipino farm workers' strikes in Coachella and Delano. Later that year, he allied his movement with that of Chavez to form the United Farm Workers Union .

Filippo Mazzei (1730-1810): Italian. Adventurer and writer. An importer of Italian products, Mazzei came to America from London in 1773 at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson to set up an experimental farm where he planned to raise olives, grapes, and citrus fruit. He became a supporter of the cause of American independence and in 1779 was sent to Europe to borrow money for the revolutionary armies. He remained in Europe until the end of the revolution, working in support of the American cause.

Qaid-I-Azam's Birthday: Pakistan. Political leader. Qaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a leader of the movement for Indian independence from Great Britain and founded the independent state of Pakistan. His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday on July 27.

Christmas: Christian. Followers of all Christian faiths observe Christmas on this day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas has been celebrated on this day since the Roman Catholic Church established it in the fourth century as the official day for celebration. Eastern Orthodox Christians, however, continue to follow and earlier practice of using the Julian Calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7. Christmas is a family-oriented holiday with special foods, colorful decorations, and exchanging of gifts. Families often have their own traditions, especially concerning when gifts are exchanged and what foods are served.

Boxing Day: Britain. Observed in many of the territories that belonged to the old British Empire, this is the day to throw away the boxes in which one received Christmas gifts. *Originally including Canada and Australia, it was the day when a box was passed for small holiday donations to be given tradespeople. When Boxing Day falls on the weekend, the following Monday is often observed as a holiday in most countries of the current or former United Kingdom. *

Kwanzaa: African American. Celebrated from December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa began in the United States in 1966 and is patterned after an East African harvest festival. Symbols of Kwanzaa are set upon a low table laden with tropical fruits and vegetables. Kwanzaa decorations traditionally use a color scheme of red, black, and green: black to represent the faces of Black people and their collective beauty, red to represent the struggle and the blood of ancestors, and green to signify youth and renewed life. The Kwanzaa observance includes storytelling about the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imami (Faith).

Holy Innocents' Day: Mexico and Morocco. In an attempt to find the infant Jesus and kill him, King Herod ordered the killing of children in Bethlehem. Current research indicates that between 6 and 20 children were killed.