Spotlight on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

February is Black History Month

Black History Month is a month-long event to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of African Americans to the successes of this country. As we look at our recent past, in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we faced the ongoing agony of systematic racism throughout our country. However, we also saw some very notable firsts for the Black community. 

This year, let us honor a few (of many) of our African American contemporaries that have achieved a status that never has been achieved by Black people in the United States. One must understand that these current successes are only possible today because of the activism, tenacity, grit, resilience, and shear selflessness of many African Americans who blazed the trail before them.

Kamala Harris is not only the first US woman Vice President; she is the first Black woman and she is the first woman of Asian Pacific decent to become the VP of the United States. Given the fact that women just recently celebrated 100 years of the Right to Vote and the fact that Black women’s votes were not protected by law until 1965, it seems unbelievable that Kamala Harris has achieved this status; and, yet, it’s unbelievable that it has taken so long. Women REJOICE and keep paving the way for other Black women and women of color. 

Let’s also turn to Raphael Warnock, who was voted in 2020 as the first African American Senator for the state of Georgia. Another monumental achievement for a person of color, for a state with a very long history of suppressing the Black vote. Senator Warnock’s platform is to fight for affordable health care, to protect voting rights, and to ensure the dignity of working people.

Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, a voting rights activist, and a former Georgia Representative, has fought tirelessly against Georgia’s voter suppression. It is believed that, due to her efforts, voter turnout was boosted in Georgia, which had historical and monumental impacts on the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election and the US Senate election and special election. Ms. Abrams was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to promote nonviolent change through the use of the vote.

Then there is Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, who performed her original poem “The Hill We Climb” for the Biden inauguration. She challenged us with her words, delivered with both strength and melody. “We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. Our nation isn’t broken, but simply unfinished, and for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”   

There are so many forefathers and foremothers who blazed a path for the people we acknowledge here today, and these honorees are continuing to blaze that path for others. 

Be the light.

This article was written by
Jule Gomes Noack
President & CEO
Member of HMEA's Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee
Watch Amanda Gorman, the United States' first ever Youth Poet Laureate, perform her poem, "The Hill We Climb" in its entirety at the 2021 inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.