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Celebrating Black American Stories During Black History Month

Annually a Black History Month Proclamation is issued in February. President Biden's message declared:

"Black History Month serves as both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations."

Learning about the injustices and honoring Black Americans' contributions is all part of American history. For 2022, the focus of Black History Month is on Black Health and Wellness. Did you know that Sandra Lindsay, a Black nurse, was the first to receive the Covid 19 vaccine in the United States? Learn about more medical pioneers here.

At SME, our Operations Director, Laura Ploss, elected to explore Black History Month to build inclusive leadership skills. Below are Laura's findings:

1. CBS 60 Minutes aired a piece about Seneca Village located in Central Park in New York City in the early 19th century. It was home to the largest number of free Black property owners in New York City before the Civil War. It disappeared when Central Park was being planned – the city used eminent domain to take control of the land. Seneca Village Today. The next time you visit Central Park, we hope you'll not only be enlightened but you'll be curious about clues about the missing Seneca Village. Learn more here.

2. Carter G. Woodson was the "father of Black history." A recent NPR article tells the origin story of Black History Month. Did you know Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926 and grew into Black History Month in the 1960s? It occurred in February because of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Learn more here.

3. Marian Anderson was an opera singer classified as a contralto, the lowest possible female voice even though she could sing as high as a soprano. PBS shares Marian's story and audio recordings of her "life and career from the Metropolitan Opera to the State Department." Watch it here.

4. The great actor Sidney Poitier died in January of this year. He was the first African American to win an Academy Award for best actor. In addition, he refused to take parts that were based on racial stereotypes. He led the way for Black actors who followed him. In addition, he had dual citizenship in the U.S. and Bahamas and was the ambassador to Japan for the Bahamas from 1997 to 2007. In 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Check out some of his movies on your favorite streaming platform (Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix).

Laura says these are only a very small handful of stories; so many shaped our nation. The Inclusion Journey that we are on requires us to continually learn history to improve the present and build a more inclusive future. Happy Black History Month. And by the way, if February gets away from you, remember Black History education is worth your attention all year long.



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