By Cari Jackson Lewis of Terri Hilliard PC
Why do we celebrate Black History Month? According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, in 1926 Carter G. Woodson began “Negro History Week” (the precursor to Black History Month) in order to dispel the misconception that black people had made little impact upon the United States other than as a formerly enslaved people. At that time Dr. Woodson, a Harvard PhD, former sharecropper and the son of former slaves, sought to teach Americans — including African-Americans — about the contributions that people of African descent had made to American society and the world.
African-American people are an essential and integral part of American life, with representation in categories as diverse as academia, architecture, agriculture and aviation; sports and space; law and labor; medicine, the military and the ministry; business, technology and many others. Today, one reason we celebrate Black History Month is to honor our ancestors in these and other industries. Their triumphs in the face of unimaginable obstacles demonstrate the resilience and determination that are enduring hallmarks of our people. In addition, we celebrate Black History Month in confirmation that our intellectual prowess, formidable work ethic, strong family ties, supportive religious community, and our collective drive to succeed is producing generations of high-achieving and successful African-Americans, even in troubling times such as these.
Finally, I believe that Black History Month serves to remind us that it is up to us to ensure, as our ancestors did, that our future will be even brighter than our past. Specifically, we must continue pursuing our goals in any and every field of endeavor, providing educational, financial and networking support and encouragement for these dreamers and strivers. This representation has the effect of increasing opportunities for those coming up after them. In addition, we must increase our financial literacy and grow our wealth. As good stewards of our hard-earned assets, with planning and forethought, we can effectively provide for our families and communities. Further, it is imperative that more African-Americans run for public office. We can do more to encourage people of color to take this important step toward the halls of power, so we will have a hand in crafting legislation that affects our communities.
Much has been accomplished since Dr. Woodson’s day, but there is still much to do. This Black History Month, we all should consider what we can do to enhance the legacies we will leave behind for our children, our communities, and our country.