Black History... is American History
It was August 28th, 1963, and the greatest civil rights coalition in modern history had descended upon Washington. Hundreds of thousands of protestors trekked through the heat, stretching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. For several hours, marchers heard oratory expression from civil rights, religious, labor, and student leaders from across the country.
Several hours passed, and marchers were growing weary from the sun’s rays. Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took the stage. Dr. King started his prolific speech by recounting the past and present injustices many African Americans experienced during their quest for civil rights. However, it was Dr. King’s awesome vision, his dream for a better America that forever changed the course of history. He envisioned an America where “… little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
It is in this same spirit that all Americans should celebrate Black History Month. Throughout this month, we all pause to reflect and celebrate our rich and wonderful mosaic. We examine and highlight the history of the African descendants in America, and know that each and every one of us has come this far because of our faith in this country. It is a time to celebrate our collective strength which pulled us through past struggles; a time to recognize our present day victories, and honor those who brought us to this point. This month we recognize that while our nation continues to confront and break down any remnants of bigotry and hate, we can see the sun over the horizon. Only by acknowledging the success and sacrifice made by those who came before us, can we fully understand what we must do to ensure the liberty of those who will succeed us.
During this month we honor great pioneers like Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, the Honorable Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Thurgood Marshall and Adam Clayton Powell, who now watch over us like guardian angels. We pay homage to our civil rights leaders like Congressmen John Conyers, John Lewis, Bobby Rush and Charles Rangel, who continue the good fight for justice here in Congress. We celebrate our living legends and history makers like Congressman James Clyburn, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad Ali, Spike Lee, Colin Powell, Venus and Serena Williams, and Judith Jamison. Lastly, we pray for our first black President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as the many brilliant people of color in the Administration that have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of all Americans.
It is also important that we recognize our unsung heroes, like Harvey Lawrence of the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center, who works everyday to provide comprehensive health services to some of the poorest of my constituents. Community leaders across this country provide life changing services to the most vulnerable among us; and make a lasting impact on our society without national recognition.
We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness. I encourage all Americans to take time during this month, and throughout the year, to reflect upon the many contributions African Americans have made to the building of our nation.