By Senior Airman Xavier Lockley
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The purpose of Black History Month is to acknowledge and honor those who have paved the way before us, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and Harriet Tubman, just to name a few. The plethora of contributions by African Americans has made America a better place. This month is used to teach and encourage all people by informing them that no barrier can stand in the way of what you wish to accomplish.
In the year 1925, Carter G. Woodson, a historian from Harvard University, began to raise awareness for those African Americans who had influenced society. Woodson’s efforts would not go unnoticed as he founded “Negro History Week” in February 1926. As a result of Negro History Week, teachers recognized the need to educate their students about the contributions of African Americans in the world and they received support from many different sources, even whites who felt equality was necessary for the country to move forward in a positive direction.
By the 1960’s, black history awareness rose to the forefront of issues that needed to be addressed nation-wide. Many mayors of cities in the United States gave their heartfelt opinions based on Negro History Week and how beneficial it was in their respective cities. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford lengthened Negro History Week to a month, and it was known from then on as “Black History Month.”
When you think about the contributions African Americans have made over the years, we have come a long way. At one point in history, African Americans were slaves, and now we have an African American president serving in his second term. That is truly something unique and it shows that anyone is able to overcome adversity with consistency and commitment to excellence. No one knows what would have happened if Rosa Parks would have gotten up out of her seat, or what would have happened if the Million Man March would have stopped short of Washington D.C., but the efforts of these great men and women made life better for future generations.
One individual I look up to is Jackie Robinson. Although I was not born in the era in which he endured hate, racism and discrimination, I admire that he continued to push forward and reach his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Jackie Robinson often displayed quiet professionalism, even when opposing players would slide into the base that he was defending with their spikes aimed at his body with the intention of causing him harm. Robinson could have easily fought and lost his cool; however, he chose to be the bigger man and walk away from any confrontation and went on playing the game that he loved. As he excelled in baseball, his team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, began to thrive. Robinson was recognized as the catalyst for the team’s impeccable season and is known as one of the greatest to ever play the game of baseball.
Being an African American in 2014 is different than being one back in the early 1900s. The sacrifices of those who came before us brought us to the point where we can vote, drink from the same water fountains, go to the same bathrooms, and take advantage of the same opportunities as anyone else. However, it is ultimately up to us to go forth and grab them. A lot can be learned from the ones who came before us, and one of the greatest things we can do is to continue to press beyond our various challenges into the opportunities before us. We see what has already been achieved; now, we should ask ourselves, “what next?”