Celebrating a month of significance

We have seen many dark days since our United States of America became a nation in 1776; and we are still living in times of discord and uncertainty when it comes to our political arenas. But living through these times and preserving our freedoms has not been done out of laziness and apathy.

It has taken many years of strife, fighting for what is right, standing up against what must have seemed like insurmountable odds, bigotry, hatred and racism. Lives have been lost and hope has been challenged but the spirits of those who dared to lead us from darkness were never dampened.

January is the month for taking down holiday decorations, making resolutions and paying our credit card bills as a result of over indulging those we love and care about with gifts the month before. It is also the first full month of winter leaving us with cabin fever and maybe even some winter blues. But now comes February! This is a month for celebration of all that our country is and of everything it can be because of the many sacrifices and determination of our many men and women of color who rose to the challenges before them and became leaders and heroes for justice. Yes, this is the month in which we celebrate Black History in America!

One of the darkest times in American history is that of slavery. This was an abomination of all that we have been taught. There were black men and women, children and old folks who suffered through what must have been unimaginable pain and persecution. But there was one who stood proud against the dangers before her. Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” She led slaves through swamps, forests and dangerous passages to freedom through what is known as the “Underground Railroad.”

While Harriet Tubman’s tenacity and determination to free as many slaves as possible was fraught with obstacles, Black History Month may never have happened without the determination of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson worked with others to establish the Association for the Study of Negro Life in 1915, and became known as the “Father of Black History Month.” If we think of what life must have been like during that time, it must have been a monumental undertaking for him to bring his dream alive. His goal was not just to celebrate the achievements and lives of those black men and women before him, but to put forth a fight for Black Americans to be recognized as equal citizens.

Where would we be today had there not been those willing to sacrifice their all to fight for change? President Barack Obama tells us, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Change for the sake of change is not what I am referring to. I believe we must make changes that will ensure goodness, right, and the betterment of our community – change for the good of all takes an unselfish attitude and a belief in others more than ourselves.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she literally risked her life for the rights of all men and women of color. She has been quoted as saying, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Ms. Parks knew what she had to do and she did it!

When Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era, history tells us he was forced to drink from water fountains marked “colored” and could not eat in the restaurants with his fellow white players. He loved baseball, and he loved America. His famous quotes are inspirations to many, but the one that stands out for me is “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Jackie Robinson cleared the field for future black athletes.

By now you may be wondering why there has yet to be a quote from the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The Rev. King was a man of many talents, and one who believed in and fought for justice and equality for all. When I see the statute that is made “in his image” in Washington, D.C., I say to myself, “that is not what he looked like, he wasn’t an angry man with arms folded across his chest, he was kind, generous, and welcoming — his arms should have been reaching out, and he should have been in a welcoming posture” because that is how I remember him. Of all the things he said, and of all the good he did, the most important was the hope he gave to others. It wasn’t his “I Have a Dream” speech, but his personal mantra that I find most inspiring, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

February, the month in which we celebrate the achievements and courage of so many of our black men and women — Black History Month. I’m looking forward to the month that will celebrate “Equality for all” a month without racism, without prejudice, and with nothing short of love for our fellow men and women of all colors, religions, nationalities and creeds.

By the way, just in case you haven’t heard, Feb. 11 is “National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk” day — let’s learn from history and keep moving our country, state, county, and City of Dunkirk forward, because if we don’t do it, who will?

Have a great day.


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