Black History Month 17
Dear Jersey City Community,
As we usher in Black History Month, in the context of recent national and international events, the words spoken by President Barack Obama at his inauguration seem especially relevant today.
“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself, and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
While acknowledging the struggles, contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans from Crispus Attucks to Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King Jr., in making America great and the land of equality, we should remember, borrowing liberally from Desmond Tutu, our equality is bound up in our brothers’ and sisters’, for we can only be equal together. America is yet to be that “perfect union”, and the legacy of the enslavement of Blacks still stains our society, but that should compel us to be even more committed to justice for all.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream wasn’t just for Black Americans. It was for America. It was for the ideals of America. It wasn’t just Blacks who marched on Washington in 1963. It was people from all races, colors and creeds who wanted to take a stand for what is moral and right. The protests, sit-ins and picket signs ignited a national conscience, that looking at our history, has to be reawakened every decade or so. The election of the first African American president filled so many of us with hope, and we truly believed, “Yes we can.”
And, despite these times, it is even more important that we believe, yes, we can. Inequalities persist throughout our country; there are far too many who feel the sting of discrimination because of race, gender, religious beliefs, national origin, sexual orientation, or just being different. But we have to continue to believe we are better than that. We have to continue to take a stand, individually or collectively, large or small, because freedom and justice for all may be more fragile than we think.
And we must remember our history. It has been said the Black History is just American History.
Indeed it is.
Dr. Marcia V. Lyles