“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey
Since 1976, every U.S. President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. This is a time dedicated to reflecting and publicly thanking those African-Americans who have gone before us – showing strength and perseverance for what is right.
We are grateful for our ancestors’ optimistic attitudes, which were difficult to maintain during extremely challenging times in our history. Optimism and believing that things were going to be better have enabled us to move forward toward change. Our ability to believe in ourselves to overcome adversity has been a strength and testament of our will.
Black History is not just about learning about the challenges we as a people have been through. It is about our ability to have integrity, leadership, and determination in the face of our struggles. Crisis does not necessarily make character, but it certainly helps to reveal it. Adversity creates strength in character and determination. A lesson to learn and celebrate as we chart our continued progress.
Black History month provides us with a moment to celebrate and rejoice in the tremendous changes we have experienced. At the same time, it is imperative that we recommit and learn from our past as to what has worked successfully so we can clearly identify what we still need to do. We want to take our rich history and reach beyond to inspire the next generations to continue to create and sustain positive change. This applies to working in human services- such as providing foster care, adoption, and other family and children support services.
As the President and CEO of a non-profit that serves over 10,000 diverse children and families, I am wholeheartedly determined to effect positive change. We must demand equity for all – regardless of race, ethnicity, different abilities, sexual orientation, or family composition. We all have the same inalienable rights and working together we can continue to achieve momentous success. We at One Hope United are taking the opportunity to start the dialog about diversity and inclusion, at the upcoming Hope Academy sessions for our staff members.
As I look at areas that affect the populations who we serve at One Hope United, there has been some progress made for Black children in foster care. From 2007 to 2017, according to the Child Welfare Foster Care Statistics report published in 2017:
- The number of Black children in foster care dropped from 31% to 23%
- The number of Black children entering foster care dropped from 26% to 21%
- However, the rate of Black children exiting foster care during the same 10-year period, dropped from 27% to 21%
In the education sector, according to a report from the Postsecondary National Policy Institute:
- For Blacks, aged 25 to 29, only 23% held a bachelor’s degree in 2018, a growth of only 5% from 2000. In comparison, white students aged 25 to 29, during that same period, the number of who attained a bachelor’s degree, rose from 34% to 44%.
Along with foster care, and education, poverty is another area of concern. The poverty rate among Blacks is the highest of any racial or ethnic group; in 2018, the rate of poverty was 20.8%, according to census data. By comparison, the overall U.S. poverty rate in 2018 was 11.8%.
Representation in executive leadership is another area where we are under-represented. In a report from Race to Lead, published in 2017, less than 20% of nonprofits are led by people of color. And, only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S. are filled by Black people.
As African Americans we have come together to improve our communities and cities. There is still much to do. In our uncertain world, I take the challenge personally and professionally to accelerate change through respect and collaboration. I believe that success can be achieved with consensus leadership. Through partnerships, associations, collaborations, and teamwork- we increase our value together to unify and succeed.
Black History month still matters. Celebrating and studying Black History is part of American History. It is critical to our understanding our progress as a nation, recommitting ourselves and our leadership to celebrating and effecting positive change to making the world a better place for all. It is time to realize that the recognition of our history shouldn’t be limited to one month but celebrated year-round.