Black History Month is important for America

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 2/8/21

It is my general perception that many of us have heard of “Black History Month,” the national celebration of African-American people of importance and events in their history. In case you …

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Black History Month is important for America

Posted

It is my general perception that many of us have heard of “Black History Month,” the national celebration of African-American people of importance and events in their history.

In case you didn’t know, February is “Black History Month” throughout our country as well as Canada. It is celebrated in October in Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The precursor to this national recognition dates from 1926 in America when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History declared the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This particular week was selected in honor of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass whose birthdays are celebrated that week. Black communities had celebrated these birthday dates together since the late 19th century.

It wasn’t until 1970 that “Black History Month” was established thanks to the efforts of black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University.

President Ford gave added credence to “Black History Month”

President Gerald Ford gave added attention to the February celebration and recognition during the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Both then and today, I believe that President Ford hit the nail on the head regarding “too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans.” Over the years, I have had my Black heroes, heroines and other distinguished individuals along with those who have stood out in our American history. I hope that you have as well.

Certainly as a boy who loved baseball, I very much admired Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige. It wasn’t until decades later that I thoroughly comprehended the racial consequences and ugliness which Black baseball stars experienced and had to cope with. Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey was very astute in choosing Robinson to be the first Negro to play in the Major Leagues. While there were other talented players, he picked Robinson not only for his athleticism but also for his demeanor and capability to cope with the racial abuse that Rickey knew would occur.

Additional distinguished Black Americans

Other significant sports athletes come to my mind including Gale Sayers, who was an outstanding running back for both the Kansas Jayhawks and Chicago Bears football teams.

Also, Olympic Gold Medal runner Jessie Owens, who foiled Hitler’s desire to belittle Black athletes in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany and ace right-hand pitcher Bob Gibson for the St. Louis Cardinals.

From the performing arts, I have always admired singer Nat King Cole, actor Denzel Washington and singer Ray Charles.

I love history; especially American history. Abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman with the “Underground Railroad” and Rosa Parks - with her determination - have both been true heroines in my book.

Certainly, in the field of human rights and influencing American history, Martin Luther King Jr. is more a hero to me today than when he lived and spoke “I have a dream.” Thanks to books written about him, documentaries, video interviews and much more that I have absorbed over the years, I admire him all the more today.

If ever there was a human being who “walked the talk”, it was MLK.

Amanda Gorman is an emerging star

While all of these Black heroes and heroines represent the past, it is important to embrace the present and the future. So many of us who watched President Biden’s Inauguration had the opportunity to be inspired by a 22-year-old African-American, Harvard graduate woman with her amazing talent. She is America’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman.

She inspired so many Americans that January 20 morning on the Inaugural stage with her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” With the siege of our U.S. Capitol just two weeks earlier still quite vivid in our minds and our hearts, she captured the feeling of what we experienced that fateful January 6. She gave us hope and inspiration that historic day.

If you haven’t read or heard her deliver her poem, I strongly urge you to Google “Amanda Gorman” and you will have a wonderful and inspiring experience. Please allow me to share a few selected quotes from her poem:

“The hill we climb; if only we dare; it’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into; and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded, but while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

More from “The Hill We Climb”

Also, “We are striving to forge a union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.”

Mark it down. This young poet, writer, dreamer boiled it down to where we are and what we as a nation need to embrace. I would include her potential to be among the “greats” of Robinson, Owens, Gibson and King. She is a wonderful addition to “Black History Month.”

Where is the transparency?

Several of you have asked about the status of the lawsuit involving the recall election of Westminster members of City Council Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz.

The citizen’s group Westminster Water Warriors filed their lawsuit seeking to overturn the Westminster City Clerk’s action throwing out the petitions to force a recall election. According to the Water Warriors, the case has not yet been assigned a judge.

The city did turn the defense of the lawsuit over to its insurance carrier, CIRSA, which is an insurance pool of Colorado municipalities. CIRSA filed a motion to “Dismiss” the lawsuit, but no court action has been taken thus far.

Since the Westminster city government fails to keep the public informed of the progress of the lawsuit, I will continue to update the public. The lack of providing hard facts on something as important as this action involving approximately 7,000 citizens who signed petitions is both disappointing and indicative of the attitude of the current city manager and the majority of the city council. Where is the transparency?

Arenado deserves to be on a winning team

Finally, I cannot avoid saying something about the recent trade of Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This action is a classic example of a “win-lose” for me personally. I have been a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan, going back to when my grandmother and I would listen to the Cardinals’ games on the radio (yes, before TV) and even back when Harry Carey was their broadcaster.

The Rockies have been my second favorite team since they were established in 1983.

For the Cardinals, the trade is a fantastic deal acquiring such a talented player and fills a big hole at the “hot corner” position.

For the Rockies, it is stupid and a huge loss. According to owner Ken Monfort, Arenado wanted to be traded, so I get it.

But the Rockies have fallen into a losing way for too long. When you are as talented as Arenado, you want to be on a winning team. Arenado made the right decision. Let’s just hope that Monfort will see the light to bring in a new general manager and club manager.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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