Black History Month is a time to remember sacrifices and a time to celebrate advancements and achievements that paved the way for others. Certainly, the education and celebration of Black Americans should not be confined to one month. However, the month of February offers an opportunity to commemorate the past and look toward the future.
When looking to the past, there is no denying that the United States was a country built without wages, a country built on slave labor. Africans were ripped from their homes, brought to America, then sold and bought to work for nothing.
There was no ownership in what they built. There was no reaping benefits of what they sowed. There was merely endless labor for no wages, no rewards. Everything they did and made was for the profit and benefit of others – monetized by others to build a nation.
In this day and age, no one in the U.S. could imagine a scenario where they would work without pay and be chained and whipped into submission.
From our history we see change evolved from literal blood, sweat, and tears. Yet, despite the changes our country has seen over the years, there is still more to be done. There will always be more.
This month, in celebrating Black History Month, we cannot forget our history while we celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans. This rich history is a sobering path into the future.
My grandfather Clyde T. Hutchinson, Sr., a self-taught master plumber who established his own business, stated that he never thought he’d see the day where we’d have a Black president. He was certainly not alone in his thinking. Although my grandfather passed away many years ago, in 2009, shortly before his death President Barack Obama was sworn into office. Now, in 2021 we’ve witnessed Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman of color, being sworn into office. These are monumental “firsts” that allow other Black Americans, old and young, to view what were once unimaginable dreams as imaginable.
The road for Black Americans has been long and difficult. In fact, the road continues to be long and difficult and is being paved day by day. From slavery to the White House, the history of Black Americans is paved with monumental “firsts.” With each first, a decision had to be made years in advance to pursue the goal. To obtain these goals required vision, plans, hard work, and taking advantage of every opportunity.
In some Black families, the first to graduate high school and attend college has just been celebrated. In other families, they have celebrated the first college graduate, teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer. Yet in many Black households, these celebrations have yet to take place. While some cities and states have embraced the elections of Black mayors and governors, there are many that have yet to reach that milestone. There are “firsts” still being made in professional sports, entertainment, and corporate America. With all of these “firsts,” paths are being paved to demonstrate the possibilities for the future.
In honor of Black History Month remember everyone that sacrificed and celebrate the accomplishments of those who inspire hope. We must never forget Harriett Tubman, William Still, Elijah Anderson, and the countless others that contributed to the Underground Railroad. We must never forget Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Roy Wilkins, and the hosts of others who led the Civil Rights Movement. Celebrate the “firsts” of President Obama, Vice President Harris, and so many other public figures including Stacey Abrams, Gabby Douglas, and Jason Wright. However, remember that Black history is so much deeper, and so much richer than the names you see in the media and the ones commonly heard.
Every day we should make an effort to learn something new and the month of February is a great time to make the commitment to learn something new in Black history. If you don’t already know, learn about Fort Mose, Black Wall Street, Dr. James McCune Smith, Rev. Peter Williams Jr., Macon Allen, and Edward Bouchet. The wealth of information available is more than what was taught in our history classes. Learn the history that paved the path.