Updated: Feb 28, 2020
I want to have a real discussion about Black History Month. I want us all to be reminded of its importance and significance and to not let this special recognition go in vain. It’s easy to share our favorite quotes from black leaders on our social media, share a daily black history fact, or attend a black history event. Celebrate and shine a light on those who paved the way for us anyway you choose! But let me encourage you to not stop there. Our social media posts and wall decorations are all in vain if we don’t take a moment to reflect and examine our own contributions to upholding black excellence. And make no mistake, I am speaking to everyone of every culture and ethnicity after all, black history is indeed AMERICAN history.
If you are black, this month can serve as a reminder to you that at great costs you have been allotted the freedoms to do what you love and live a life of purpose. If you are not black, this serves as a great reminder that with the help of non-black allies the civil rights movement was successful and that your continued dedication to not be silent when you see the marginalization and discrimination of black people is deeply coveted. The voices of those who are oppressed becomes much louder when they are supported and declared by those who maintain societal acceptance and a platform free of systematic barriers.
Let this recognition and celebration not be in vain. This is why we only dedicate one month to this celebration! If communities, leaders, and schools celebrated black history year round although such attempt sounds nice, it will eventually become a blur and lack real significance and highlights. I fear we would become numb to it. Dedicating one month to the richness and history that makes black culture exceptional gives the needed spotlight that unfortunately it would have never had if it would have been attempted to be integrated into traditional American history. This spotlight is needed.
So we use this month to celebrate, recognize, and most importantly reflect. We reflect so that through our lives we uphold the values and sacrifices of those who have come before us and we do our part to use lessons learned through black history to propel us to a future of excellence.
What can we learn from the black trailblazers who came before us? From President Obama, we can learn that we don’t have to come from a rich family to have success. And although it’s ideal, we don’t have to come from a nuclear family to succeed. From Oprah Winfrey, we learn the power of creating a career from scratch and giving back. Shaun King, teaches us the power of advocacy and giving a voice to the voiceless. Maya Angelou, taught us to unleash the words within us and tell our story. I could go on! I want to encourage you to reflect and remember more about these and other leaders than the brief glance an inspirational tweet or meme may offer. Remember their life lessons and apply it to your present life.
Working While Black
Not every notable black figure is a celebrity. Black excellence is present all throughout Corporate America, entrepreneurship, and small businesses. We can’t forget the many obstacles and barriers African Americans have had to face and breakthrough in the workplace. We also should acknowledge our non minority allies who hire, promote, and invest in professionals who do not look like them and use only their brilliance and capabilities as deciding factors for their belief in them VS the color of their skin. Diversity and inclusion matters! Working while black means:
Choosing a professional opportunity that is dedicated to diversity and providing a work culture rooted in equity.
Working harder than most. Mediocrity and scathing by is not productive for any professional but this is especially damaging to black professionals who battle systematic racism, and possibly discrimination, and prejudice at work.
Rise up bring up! When you reach success mentor or lead someone at work who is underprivileged. This is not a competition, creating more leaders is a must.
Black excellence means achieving greatness despite every statistic, missed opportunity or judgement. And it doesn’t stop there. Black excellence means over achieving and creating a platform to reach, inspire, and expose other black super achievers who may not have had such inspiration and opportunity otherwise. But it’s hard to be excellent to the world if we are not exposed to excellence in our homes and within our communities first. Here is my plea.
To black leaders:
Give back every reasonable chance you can. Through volunteering, mentoring, or hiring power etc. Do it anyway you can and by any means necessary. There is no wrong way or too small of a way to give back. Your may receive no recognition for your servitude but your contributions do matter and eyes are on you. Your gifts and your time will bless and inspire someone else of color.
To black fathers:
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”- Frederick Douglas
We need you. All of you. Not just your money but your time. This is not to take away from amazing mothers who do it all or to kids who lacked a father presence and still grew up to become phenomenal adults. It does indeed happen. But it should not have to. Strong women and resilient children should not make your lack of involvement comfortable for you. I know there are systematic factors that were created for African Americans to fail. But your presence and guide can help them breakthrough every barrier. You are the secret weapon to our success because in this country you have been counted out. You are underestimated and I need you to rise up and lead your children…whether you are with their mother or not. Be present. Present physically and emotionally.
“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”- Rosa Parks
Are we tired yet? Are we tired of being underestimated? Tired of being judged? Tired of needing federal laws that protect from lynching? Tired of school boards needing to approve our children wearing their hair as it naturally grows out of their heads? Tired of being accused of dividing the nation every time we initiate a healthy conversation about race? If you are not tired get tired. Get so tired that you use February to reflect and to give honor where honor is due but that you use the other 11 months to create excellence and create opportunities for others year round. Black History Month is one month and as long as it’s not in vain I am OK with that! But black excellence is an eternity. How will you strive for it?