Black History Month: Our Time of Reflection, Rejoice and Recommitment to Effect Positive Change

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“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 reflect and publically thank those African-Americans who have gone before us – showing strength and perseverance for what is right.

We are grateful for our ancestor’s 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.

The good news is that high school dropout rates have declined faster among blacks ages 18 to

24 than the national average.

· Among blacks, the rate dropped from 24% in 1976 to 8% in 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

· Among all Americans, the rate also decreased, from 16% to 7% over this time period. At the same time, the share of blacks who have graduated from college has increased faster than the national average.

· For blacks, 25 and older who have at least a bachelor’s degree has increased from 7% in 1976 to 22% in 2013.

· Among all Americans, the share has increased from 15% to 32% over the same time period.

However, the poverty rate among blacks is the highest of any racial or ethnic group.

· Poverty has declined slightly over time, from 31.3% in 1976 to 27.2% in 2014, according to census data.

· By comparison, the overall U.S. poverty rate has increased from 12.3% in 1976 to 14.9% in 2014.

· Blacks also fare worse than other groups in terms of wealth. In 2013, the median wealth of white households ($141,900) was 13 times the median wealth of black households ($11,000), the widest gap since 1989, according to a Pew Research analysis of Federal Reserve survey data.

As CEO of a non-profit for disabled people, I am whole heartedly determined to effecting positive change. We must demand equality for all – regardless of race, ethnicity, physical disabilities, different abilities and sexual orientation. We all have the same inalienable rights, and working together we can continue to achieve momentous success.

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.

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