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Feb. 27, 2009

Black History Month Is America's History Month Too!

February 2009 represents one of the most memorable black history months I have observed. This Black History month the President of The United States of America is a biracial man born of a white mother and African father. Barack Obama 44th President of America elected November 4th 2008. Who could have imagined that such a historically life changing event would happen in my lifetime? The sit-ins, boycotts, marches, demonstrations, beatings, and imprisonments could not and would not be shushed. In one voice the many demanded equality and the opportunity to be the best they could be based on nothing but ability. The role models and leaders that represent every hue of the citizens of this country are testament that the sacrifices have been worthwhile. There is still much work to do to ensure equality in all areas of African Americans daily lives. But looking back to where we started and where we are today I say with up most optimism that the best is yet to come for African Americans and all the citizens of this country. I am inspired to keep on pushing forward, contributing wherever I can to continue to lift this nation up to a higher standard and thereby lifting up the African American community. This 2009 Black History I commit my time, money and/or resources to supporting the presidents' agenda, volunteering in local and state elections but most importantly, I commit to speaking and teaching about my history that is intricately woven into the fabric of this country and the world. After all, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Black History month began February 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson the founder of Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Dr. Woodson communicated with other influential African Americans and settled on the second week of February to recognize the accomplishments of African Americans. In 1972 the name was changed to Black History Week and to Black History Month in 1976. The Black History Month of observances has filled me with indescribable pride for the majority of my adult life. It has given me an opportunity to honor those who have gone before me and teach people of all races about the accomplishments and sacrifices of African Americans. There are so many heroes and heroines in our history, but for this column, I would like to single out the following five. Four little girls died in a bombing by the Ku Klux Klan at the Seventeenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama on September 15, 1963.

I was eleven years old and will never forget the horror and the sadness. I never want anyone to forget them and how their young lives changed all of us. I want to speak their names so we will remember that President Obama's ascent to the highest office in the land came with blood that still dampens this land. The four girls names were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. The first three girls were fourteen and Denise was eleven. They died for our freedom and the opportunity for us all to achieve our dreams no matter how lofty. We must keep their memory, so please, tell someone else about Addie, Carole, Cynthia and Denise.

The other name I would speak today is Congressman John Lewis. Mr. Lewis' entire life has been committed to ensuring the freedom and equality of Black Americans. Mr. Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations as a student at Fisk University at segregated lunch counters. In 1961 he participated in the Freedom Rides that challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals throughout the South. He was severely beaten many times but that only slowed him down, he never gave in or gave up. At 23 Mr. Lewis was one of the founders of the SNCC, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was a planner and speaker at the March on Washington in August 1963. His energy and resolve were granite and on March 7, 1965 Mr. Lewis and Hosea Williams led 525 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to advocate voter registration. The scene that ensued is still a horrific reminder of the sacrifices of so many determined individuals that stood with Mr. Lewis and Mr. Williams. The day was known as Bloody Sunday and Mr. Lewis suffered a fractured skull. It too slowed him down but never stopped him from standing up and speaking out for freedom and equality. I applaud and admire Mr. Lewis for all he has done and is still doing for our country. I was touched, elated and brought to tears when I saw President Obama embrace him before being sworn in as the 44th President of these United States reminding us all that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. There is not a day that I am not grateful and mindful that I must continue the tradition to teach one.

Black History Month in February is a cause for celebration and reflection on how we have overcome so much and though I have no illusions that there is still much work, today, this month I say well done - the best is yet to come for us all.

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