In 1986, Congress formally passed legislation to create Black History Month, highlighting the achievements of people of Black descent. This event was inspired by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and that there should be more awareness about the contributions of Black Americans, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
As we celebrate Black History Month and the progress and achievements, it’s also important to recognize the inequities that remain for African Americans in the United States.
Video footage over the past 30 years continues to document inequities, brutality, and inhumane practices toward African Americans such as Rodney King, George Floyd, and Tyre Nichols. What happened to them has prompted ongoing and crucial conversations that call for permanent change to how those of Black ancestry are treated in the United States, including the revision of laws and policies that ensure humane and equitable treatment for everyone.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned such social changes in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. He advocated for treating individuals based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Sixty years later, African Americans are still making the same request for fair and equal treatment.
Related link: Black History Month and How It Made a Mark on the Future
Black History Month Is an Important Time to Recognize How Black People Have Advanced Our Society
It is undeniable that Black history is strongly connected to American history. Advances in politics, technology, entertainment, sports and medicine are directly tied to African Americans such as:
- Shirley Chisholm – the first African-American elected to Congress
- Robert Johnson – the first African-American billionaire and founder of Black Entertainment Television
- Hattie McDaniel – the first African-American woman to win an Oscar
- Jackie Robinson – the first African-American to become a major league baseball player, breaking the color barrier
- Barack Obama – the first African-American President
- Kizzmekia “Kizzie” Corbett – an African-American scientist instrumental for developing the COVID-19 vaccine
However, cultural advancements cannot be accomplished solely by people in the Black community. Inclusion strategist, speaker, and executive coach Amber Cabral notes that global advocates and allies are needed to acknowledge the past mistreatment of other races and create a more positive future for them.
But shaping a future is about more than just having a conversation. It includes creating systemic change by changing policies at the local, state, national, and international levels. Advocating and allyship involves more than just rhetoric; it includes significant reforms to change rhetoric, cultures, and societies.
Related link: Shirley Chisholm: A Political Pioneer and an Inspiration
The DEIB Panel at the University
The University has been commemorated for its achievements to celebrate African Americans. I’m proud to serve on the University’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Council. The DEIB Council received national recognition in 2022 for its “strong commitment to equity, representation and inclusion in marketing, enrollment and student success” from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).
The DEIB Council also convened an Alumni Connections panel to discuss diversity and representation. This panel highlighted some key concepts, including:
- Creating uniform community safety
- De-escalation training for law enforcement
The dream of Black History Month is that all citizens should celebrate true equality, inclusion and belonging. However, constant vigilance, unified commitment and unyielding compromise will be needed to make that happen.
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