Our Black lawyers and staff reflected on February as Black History Month with the following commentary.


Black History Month is an opportunity for America to reflect on its struggle of Africans in America.

As a nation, we often fail to appreciate the enormity of the struggle that is the Black American experience. And we often view Black history through a very limited prism: Black Americans were brought here as slaves, there was a civil rights movement, and now everyone’s equal because Obama was elected President.

But the reality is since 1619, America has stripped Black people of humanity, culture, religion, language, and dignity. And it’s been a continuing 402-year struggle to have America recognize Black people as fully equal. For Black Americans, progress has come as a result of perseverance, courage, unity, and love. And those characteristics are embodied in our struggle.

By appreciating the struggle of Black Americans, the nation as a whole can learn to persevere through social and political unrest and a global health pandemic that affects us today.

- Spencer Hill, Litigation Associate

People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of history for centuries. However, our value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted.

Black History Month gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate, and understand the impact of Black heritage and culture. More recently, greater attention has been paid to the importance of Black Lives Matter and other movements since the death of George Floyd.

Black History Month is a time when African Americans take time to reflect on Black investors, politicians, our enslaved ancestors, and even athletes who paved the way.

Black History Month also allows us to pay tribute to the struggle and the people who fought and died for us to have equality. Finally, Black History Month is a time of rejoicing, celebrating, and giving thanks to those who have given us hope or a life lesson that we can use to make our lives better.

We must remember to celebrate our African American heroes, not only just in February, but year-round. But for this month, I will recognize the brilliance of my race and show my pride in being an African American woman.

- Cheryl Parran, Recruiter

Black History Month is extremely important to me and to the country. And as America is an example for the world, it is even more important that we celebrate it.

Our K-12 education system tends to stick with the glorious facts that Harriet Tubman freed hundreds of slaves and that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream and fought for peace. But, there are so many more African Americans who have contributed to our country—from women such as Grace Bumbry, who was a lauded mezzo-soprano, to Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was instrumental in the 1963 March on Washington coming to fruition.

There is always more to learn about Black history, and having a month for all to focus on it is extremely important.

- Nigeria Rolling-Ford, Legal Administrative Assistant

Black history is often left out of the history books. I was never educated about things like Black Wall Street, the Tulsa massacre, or Juneteenth. These are things I first encountered as an adult, on my own initiative or by chance. I was initially embarrassed that I did not know about these events or their significance. But I have come to realize that I was not alone, and I now take pride in the fact that my children will be empowered with the knowledge of what their ancestors built, what they survived, and what they celebrated.

Black History Month is an opportunity to learn lessons we were never taught in school, to give tribute to our shared heritage, and to provide inspiration for the struggle that continues. Because the more we know about our past, the better prepared we will be for the future.

- Kyle DeThomas, Real Estate Associate

The original idea to highlight contributions of African Americans to the American story was birthed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915, which turned into a week celebration in 1926 and was ultimately expanded to a month in 1976. But, the goal was never to compartmentalize this exercise into a fixed amount of time. Instead, the goal was to elevate the story of Black tenacity, ingenuity, and creativity to the level at which we celebrate the entirety of our country’s historical narrative.

No account of America is complete without discussing the Black contribution. Our labor is literally the foundation of prosperity enjoyed by all in this country. Despite the documented terror that has permeated and attempts to engulf every aspect of Black life across generations, our collective and continuous investment in and deep reverence for the highest ideals of America have pricelessly benefitted this nation.

Yet today, we continue to find mass acknowledgement of our stories largely confined to one designated month. While the most frequently highlighted history is indeed laudable, the recounting of those narratives are often so diluted for the sake of palatability that they stray shockingly far from the truth. And the truth involves a struggle for freedom and equity that is just as ugly as it is beautiful—which, truly, is the story of America itself.

What I want most out of Black History Month is for everyone to recognize and internalize Black history as American history—not just a 28- or 29-day collection of standalone stories. And to realize that Black Americans’ incalculable contributions to the fabric of this nation make us worthy to enjoy all of the unalienable rights promised by the American dream in its purest form.

- Shaton Menzie, Intellectual Property Associate

 

Black History Month is one of several affinity months recognized by Ballard Spahr Diversity + Inclusion.