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Black History Month

Black History Month takes place in February.

Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” chose February for reasons of tradition and reform in 1926. It is widely assumed that Woodson chose February to coincide with the birthdays of two great Americans who played pivotal roles in shaping black history, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are on February 12th and 14th.

“Those two people were central to helping to afford Black people the experience of freedom that they have now.” says W. Marvin Dulaney, president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Their freedom allowed us to see through the window of their eyes.

They gave us a reason to dream big and act courageously. Not just for people of colour but for people worldwide.

Let us remember some of them who fought for freedom by breaking down barriers. They are showing us what Black History Month is all about.

African American Heroes

Martin Luther King Jr (1929 – 1968)

He experienced racial prejudice from a very young age, which inspired him to dedicate his life to achieving equality and justice for Americans of all colors. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his use of nonviolent resistance to achieve equal rights for Black Americans. King is best known for his masterful oratory skills, most memorably in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Dorothy Height (1912 – 2010)

“Godmother of the women’s movement.”

She began her efforts as a civil rights activist at the age of twenty-five when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. Height helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and shared the stage with Martin Luther King Jr. when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech.

“I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom…. I want to be remembered as one who tried.”

Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913)

“Moses of her people”

You might know her as a conductor for the Underground Railroad. Harriet persevered and travelled 90 miles north to Pennsylvania and to her freedom. She found work as a housekeeper in Philadelphia, but she wasn’t satisfied living free on her own—she wanted freedom for her loved ones and friends, too. She spent more than 10 years making secret return trips to Maryland to help her friends and family escape slavery. With each trip, she risked her life.

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”

 Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

She is best known as a poet and for her six poignant memoirs, including the masterful ”I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. She won a Grammy for the recorded reading of her most recent memoir, ”A Song Flung Up to Heaven”. Her works have earned her over 30 honorary degrees, as well as nominations for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote “On the Pulse of Morning” for the 1993 swearing-in of President Bill Clinton, becoming the second poet in U. S. history.

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”

Jesse Owens (1913-1980)

One of the most important athletic figures in American history. A gifted sprinter, relay racer, and long jumper, Jesse Owens is best known for winning four gold medals in track and field events in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. As an African American, Jesse Owens helped to shatter the beliefs of Aryan superiority in the presence of Adolf Hitler. Owens’ gold medals during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were in itself a symbol of racial equality.

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.’’

These are just a few of them who showed us that everything in life is possible and that if we continue to fight against all forms of injustice to yourselves and others, we will set a mighty example for people around us and for future generations.

As Martin Scorsese said: study the old masters, enrich your palette, expand the canvas.

Be a reminder of the importance of speaking up for equality and rejecting racism.