As we come to the close of Black History Month 2023 — following a few strident years for all Americans — Black excellence permeated life in the crisis and again extends far beyond a calendar designation and a cause célèbre. Black achievement is a daily occurrence that can’t be reduced to an annual acknowledgment.
There is always a first — a pioneer who (knowingly or unknowingly) breaks ground and breaks through the restraints of racism and the rigors of the “peculiar institution” head-on.
These Black men and women from all stations of life do it because they are driven to accomplish and excel in their professional and social pursuits. Some say it is a calling, and some know it is doing what it takes to accomplish a simple, but fundamental right — to freely pursue and live life in a valuable way.
The thing these stalwarts of the culture share is a personal commitment to make change in their communities, at their jobs, and in their quality of living.
Each year in preparation for Black History month, some of the country’s finest minds come together to identify and promote a common theme for the month-long celebration. The 2023 mantra was Black Resistance, and news outlets, organizations, and individuals picked up the staff and carried it forward to give that edict legs.
Brief but necessary history:
The first Negro History Week was celebrated in 1926. Founded by Black historian Carter G. Woodson, the “week” became Black History Month in 1976. Woodson said he would welcome the day when a separate Black history celebration was no longer necessary because his ultimate goal was a true history “devoid of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice.”
That hasn’t happened — yet. But every year at the beginning of our nation’s month-long annual celebration of more than 400 years of Black influence upon American history, Black History Month presents a different theme to honor the accomplishments and examine the travails of African Americans who, over the years, have impacted the culture and the country in compelling and memorable ways.
Resistance has to occur in a number of arenas and on a myriad of fronts to make a real impact and offset discriminatory and oppressive practices on the part of American institutions and individuals.
For Black History Month 2023, the national theme of Black Resistance was more than sound bites and banners — or the obligatory remembrances of George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, and Harriet Tubman. Without question, the contributions of these cultural giants are immeasurable. But this month’s — this year’s theme — is a living, breathing call to action: Black Resistance.
Achievements — like heroes — are not solely the stuff of national recognition. Along with the first Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown, the first Black Vice President Kamala Harris, and the first Black president Barack Obama, there are a litany of other firsts for Black Americans occurring daily in local communities, corporate boardrooms, and social spaces.
There is a first Black chancellor of Detroit’s Wayne County Community College District. There is a first African American director of the Georgia Democratic Party. There is a first Black student who receives acceptance letters from all Ivy League Institutions. There is a first Super Bowl with two Black quarterbacks leading the charge. And the first physician of any ethnic background to develop the COVID-19 vaccine was a Black woman.
There is always a first Black person arriving at some level of accomplishment in any given arena. There will be a first Black store manager for a regional chain, or a first Black department head at a local utility company, or a first Black child to gain entry to an all-white social club.
There are many Black people who are factually doing excellent things in every sector of this nation, and that’s what our culture is all about.
Will there be a last in terms of Black achievement? Only when there is a last Black man, Black woman, and Black child — so absolutely not.
Publisher, Michigan Chronicle
The Michigan Chronicle is a news, information, and events company that covers the interests of the African American community. Leaders and readers in metropolitan Detroit look to the Michigan Chronicle to stay informed about issues that impact their lives. As the voice of the community for more than 80 years, we take great pride in having access to the grassroots community as well as connections and established relationships with influencers and opinion leaders.