“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m a big Olympics fan. I enjoy the spirit of competition, the athletes’ stories, and the immense physical and mental training and grit it takes to compete at the highest levels of the sport. I also relish the opportunity to watch history unfold live.
This week, a personal highlight for me was watching Erin Jackson become the first Black woman to win a solo gold medal in speed skating at the Olympics. The 29-year-old Floridian earned Team USA’s first gold medal in the women’s 500-meter race in decades, finishing her lap in a whip-fast 37.04 seconds. What a moment–for Erin, her teammates, and the nation.
Auspiciously, Erin’s big moment occurred during Black History Month, during which we pause to remember and recognize the accomplishments of Black Americans in the past and today. In the past few years, I have listened and learned so much about Black history, including the significance of the Juneteenth holiday and the myriad achievements by extraordinary people like Erin, who have reached the highest levels of their fields even while facing centuries of systemic racism. I place a high value on listening and learning about the experiences of others, particularly this month.
Carter G. Woodson is credited with first developing “Negro History Week” in 1926. Woodson, whose parents were enslaved, was an author, historian, and the second Black American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. He recognized that the American education system offered very little information about the accomplishments of Black Americans and founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. It wasn’t until 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week into Black History Month thanks to Woodson’s tireless advocacy throughout his life.
I’m thankful for February’s opportunity to explore Black history and the present. The Brightmark team has donated to the NAACP in honor of Black History Month. Please join us in learning about and honoring Black history and stories, not just in February but throughout the year.