It’s been said that history is our guide to the future.
By understanding the social, political, and economic threads of the past, we have the ability to shape our actions in the present and dictate what happens in the generations to come. And by celebrating our history, we can remind ourselves of how far we’ve come as a community and appreciate the blessings we enjoy today and tomorrow.
Black History Month -- the annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and recognition of the central role of African Americans in U.S. history -- allows us to honor the sacrifice and suffering in battling racial inequality.
Celebrating Black History Month also gives us opportunity to pause and remember the stories and events that have paved the way for the advancement of so many.
For us at the Urban League of Broward County, many of the milestones honored during Black History Month have also been important moments in our local efforts to achieve social and economic equality. This year marks our 40th anniversary as a catalyst for change in the community we serve.
Our “Breaking the Cycle” programs uplift more than 7,000 people every year by providing access to life-changing employment and education opportunities and quality housing and health care services. This didn’t happen overnight. Over the decades, we have had tremendous partners, supporters, and donors who have poured funds, time and other resources into making our community healthier, more economically self-sufficient, and better educated.
Our work is far from over. There’s been recent injustice in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City. Poverty is holding back countless families from prosperity. Obesity is ravaging our children and adults alike.
That is why Black History Month continues to be important.
It’s a time to educate, appreciate and dedicate, for building pride and dignity in black people. At the core, it’s a celebration of what blacks have accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
Education is the key to strengthening our community. The real work in education comes in changing values, in speaking kindly to each other and treating each other with respect. Those lessons are learning in homes, churches, schools, and community organizations like Urban League of Broward County.
Malcolm X had powerful words about education: "Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."
That brings us back to history.
We need to hear, understand and preserve the stories, events and milestones of those before us. Their contributions create a sense of identity for the rest of us, as well as nurture and educate the hearts and minds of future generations.
Progress comes through hard work, sacrifice and dedication. The lessons of history tell us that.
The Baughtom Line is this: Celebrate Black History Month in honor of the sacrifices that have achieved equal rights and tolerance in our society. There’s still much to do in creating opportunity for everyone, but we need to honor the historic milestones that have paved the way for countless African Americans.