Growing up, I took a lot for granted. While there certainly was racism and bigotry present throughout my hometown of Montgomery, AL, I didn’t realize how special my neighborhood actually was. I grew up in a community where everyone looked like me. All of my elders where college educated professionals. In our community we had educators, engineers, administrators, entrepreneurs, nurses and contractors. You name it, we had it. On top of that, they were all homeowners as well. This was the epitome of the middle class for sure, especially for Blacks back in 1963. Many of them, just one generation earlier were poor sharecropping families, picking cotton in rural Alabama. Living this experience, instilled an expectation among my friends and I that we were going to college and we would do great things. My mother, being a History and English major, we would talk about Black History with great reverence. As a child, I visited many historical markers from the Civil Rights movement. As an example, I walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge many times. I visited colored only schools and other exhibits depicting the struggles for Blacks in America. It was normal for us every summer to go on many of these types of field trips.
However, being surrounded by so many successful Black people in my neighborhood, I grew up thinking these struggles were in fact history. To this very day, I remember telling my mother I would never be the first of anything because all of these issues will certainly be resolved by the time I start college. She just smiled and said, sure Son, sure. It took many years of maturing and experiencing some of my own, seemingly routine firsts, but I finally got it. Black History Month is not a celebration of the past, just for the sake of recognition. It’s an acknowledgment that recognizing where we started, from where we currently stand, highlights the momentum we take into the future. While history can be the best predictor of the future we get to choose which elements we take forward!
This month, we embrace the opportunity to recognize those in our community who are part of that history and how are helping new generations chart a different course for their future and for ours.