By William S. Coleman III
The month of February is celebrated as Black History Month in the United States and Canada.
Celebrating the accomplishments, past struggles, trials and life-giving sacrifices of African American communities and those who along the way who fought for their equal rights, reminds us of the greatness of the American Spirit. Just think it wasn’t that long ago that African Americans could not legally cast a vote or be educated in public colleges throughout many parts of this country, simply because of the color of their skin. On our journey to equality we have jumped many a hurdle. When I think of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to help all Americans fulfill the promise of America as handed to us in the wonderful document of our Constitution of United States of America, it brings renewed pride for me to say, “We are a great country.”
Here in Worcester, Massachusetts, Black History Month is a year round celebration.
I celebrate Black History Month when I see all students of every color and every ability going to school and getting the best education by dedicated teachers and a school administration that is committed to excellence.
I celebrate Black History Month when people who have been out of work for months are offered good paying jobs and opportunities for professional growth.
I celebrate Black History Month when homeless families living in shelters are given homes and the means to maintain them.
I celebrate Black History Month when every child walks, crawls or rolls across a finish line to a cheering crowd, celebrating their accomplishments.
I celebrate Black History Month when people involved in personal recovery hold on to another day of sobriety.
We are Americans, we are one.
You may have been lucky to have been born here or may have been born elsewhere, but with a firm commitment to the ideals of America, we are one.
February is an awareness month of the accomplishments of all Americans, but I want you to really think about what it would feel like to go back in time and to wake up a slave in Massachusetts, the first state in the nation to legalize human bondage. Or to wake up in Newport, Rhode Island and to build the library and the roads and the ports that brought in more slaves than any other part of our country. I want you to think of yourself as an African American without citizenship rights and I want you to close your eyes and think of yourself longing to be free.
When I talk to people around the city, and I ask what could we do to help promote awareness of the continued struggles African Americans still face in this community they bring to my attention that our political voice is not to be heard. The City of Worcester has no African American elected political leaders, not on the City Council, not on the School Committee, not as part of our delegation of State Representatives or State Senators. We may have elected in our past history School Committee members, City Council members, an Attorney General and an United States Senator, but today we witness nothing but voices of attack on our qualified Governor and those who support his efforts to help Massachusetts succeed.
Often time’s people ask, do we live in a racist and bigoted society? Are there truly people out there racist and bigoted who cannot accept a society blended with diversity? Are there people out there who cannot respect the patriotic efforts of diverse Americans serving in war? Are there people out there who cannot leave their personal comfort zone and think of themselves as a great America blended in diversity?
Throughout the months of January and February there are many activities that highlight the struggles and accomplishments of Americans deeply in love with their country. That love comes with no color qualifications. When I think of those serving in our military or those willing to volunteer to work overseas in countries like Haiti I think how great we are as a country to give the sacrifice of our lives in service to those who have absolutely nothing. America is the most generous country in the world and we open up our arms to new Americans willing to give their energies to build on the greatness of our country.
If each one of us should take a moment to learn about our own family histories and accept the diversity within our own family be it nationality, religion, personal orientation, ability or disability. Think about what you can do as an individual to make America great. Volunteer your services to community groups, senior centers, churches, temples, synagogues or mosques, hospitals, schools, libraries or to your local neighborhood centers. Praise the teachers in the classrooms who help open up the minds of students to learn in a classroom free from racial hatred and gender-biased society.
The challenges that confront America today in 2010 are the opportunities that will bring all Americans together and help improve our economies so that we have jobs, quality healthcare, excellent schools, affordable housing, personal financial savings and a community where public safety is not taken for granted.
We are Americans and nothing will hold us back.