Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 marks the start of Black History Month, which was officially recognized by the late President Gerald Ford in 1976, to urge Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
We start this year after a painful 2020 that was marked by social unrest in the wake of police brutality against Black people. The COVID-19 pandemic also spread furiously throughout communities of color, amplified by persistent inequities due to racism, stigma, poverty, and lack of access to quality healthcare.
For some, last year’s instances of racism, white supremacy, and violence against Black people were a wake-up call. But these have been persistent features of our country’s history for centuries.
We are called today to remain committed to overcoming oppression against Black people through our actions, dialogue, advocacy, and service to communities of color.
To quote Michelle Obama, “You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms…you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation.”
Black History Month offers a time for us to engage with each other in meaningful ways as we look hopefully to our new national leadership to restore our national values of compassion, tolerance, and social justice – and as we reenergize the fight against racism, homophobia, and oppressive policies and laws. While Black History Month is observed in February, our collective work and commitment should, and will continue throughout the year.