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Honoring the Black family this Black History Month

  • Posted on February 15, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Every year, Black History Month gives me an opportunity to learn a bit more about the contributions and achievements of Black and people of African ancestry to the United States and across the globe. This year, I am feeling especially optimistic as we celebrate and commemorate the month. On Jan 20, we witnessed Black Girl Magic in Amanda Gorman, the youngest ever inaugural poet, as she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” to the nation. That she wrote her poem for the event swearing in the country’s first-ever female vice president Kamala Harris, who is Black and South Asian, added to the emotion and significance of the moment. The highest glass ceiling in the world has now been shattered, and I look forward to how Madam Vice President Harris’s lived experiences will help elevate and expand the positive stories and experiences of Black and all underrepresented families.

What do I mean by the Black family? The Association for the Study of African American Life and History writes, “The Black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents.” Because so many of us cannot trace our ancestry, the Black community becomes an extension of our family and heritage. This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.”

The Black family is particularly significant in 2021. Our family is hurting. We lost members – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and so many others – to police brutality. We lost even more to the disproportionate impact on people of color by the COVID-19 virus. What does family do in hard times? It supports, protects, uplifts – it comes together.

In this trauma, I see hope. While we still have a lot of work to do, the horrific events of summer 2020 have given us the opportunity to initiate and accelerate conversations about race. There is now a willingness to listen to understand the lived experiences of our Black and African American colleagues, neighbors and friends.

I am optimistic that 2020 will be a turning point, while also cognizant of the fact that it will only be a turning point with our collective action. A member of the Black family said it best: Amanda Gorman closed out her poem with the line, “For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it – if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

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