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Celebrating Black History Month

The second month of the year – we have an opportunity to celebrate Black history in America.  

This year, the celebration is special to me. I was raised in a bi-racial family, and my parents endured unique, and often times very challenging experiences. My father worked hard to instill a sense of pride in his children and his grandchildren. As a kid, I remember being raised to know that I was Irish, and I was English, and I was Black – and that I should celebrate and embrace all of my heritage. My father passed last year, and this year for Black History month, I am reminded of the strength, pride, determination and love that he built our family values upon.  

As a parent myself, I’ve watched my youngest son, Jordan, become connected to his heritage through his relationship with my father. Hearing the stories of how my parents faced adversity sparked a passion in him to dive deeper into our Black history, so I've asked him to contribute his thoughts as I share my own thoughts here. These stories range from my parents having to walk on opposite sides of the street to the movie theater to meet safely under the cover of darkness, to neighbors hanging nasty notes on the clothesline at our home.  

Jordan: In school, I was taught that Black history starts with slavery, and continues through present day. It was not until I attended college that I started to understand that our history as a race started long before the first African American captives were brought to the U.S. in 1619.

Hearing stories from my grandfather, I would listen in astonishment and could not fathom the idea of having to drink from a separate water fountain just because of my complexion

There were so many examples of not being treated equally in a country that supposedly represented freedom for all. Although a lot of his stories angered me, there was always a message of perseverance. Even with all of the obstacles and hardships that Black Americans have dealt with – there are always examples of how they have thrived within the confines of racism and inequality.  

These stories have made me appreciate my family enormously and compelled me to stand by their side through anything. It has shown me the strengthcourage, and greatness that is embedded in my DNA from my ancestors. 

No matter what my parents faced or who was against them – they loved each other, and nothing was going to stop that. I think their love even became stronger in the face of adversity. 

But their story is not necessarily unique. So many other Black Americans have similar stories of discrimination, degradation, and repression simply because of the color of their skin. It is because of this struggle, and because of these stories, that celebrating the accomplishments of members of the Black community and their impact on history is so importantIt isn’t only about DEI, it’s about the many outstanding accomplishments of our people. We’re proud of the things we’ve done and we want to share that. It's an opportunity to recognize contributions to art, culture, science, and so, so much more. 

Jordan: “Black history is more than just the civil rights movement. We need to recognize all of the scientists, inventors, and leaders that deserve to have praise hailed upon them for how they have helped to shape American and global history." 

Having more productive conversations about Black history starts with education. We need to be more aware of the everyday accomplishments of African Americans in our daily lives. When people start to learn new things, they share them with others – and that sparks more open conversation which in turn allows us to really appreciate things in a new light, and light always defeats the darkness