Reflections on Black History Month
By Brian Mathis, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer
February 28, 2022 · 1 min read
Much like the Black American experience, this Black History Month commenced with the painful reminder that systemic inequities continue to cut far too many lives short, as they did with the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke, and concluded with joy and elation following the announcement that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would be the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. When you are Black in America, joy and pain is more than a song by M.A.Z.E. featuring Frankie Beverly (or Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock for those born after 1980). Joy and pain are a way of life.
That’s why C Street commemorates Black History Month and encourages you to continue to do the same. Both sides of the coin are important: empathy with the pain experienced by Black Americans throughout history and into the present day, along with participation in our joy when our contributions to this country are put center stage. Taking time to engage on both of these fronts acknowledges the humanity of the Black community that is far too often overlooked.
Beyond Black History Month, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion must be more than words; more than values communicated on a website or recited during quarterly board meetings. We must commit to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion becoming as much a part of American values as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
To get there, we must question the inaction on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act; address the decimation of the African American community by Covid-19 with maternal deaths for Black women deplorably high; protest the firing of Brian Flores by the Miami Dolphins and applaud the hiring of Mr. Flores by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin; demand the end to no-knock warrants but welcome the justice for those whom reform and protocols couldn’t save; and demonstrate our collective outrage when the lives of young HBCU students are disrupted by bomb threats.
Following a year of historic commitment to investment from Corporate America, shouldn’t our contribution be more than an acronym and pledges? Shouldn’t it be action tied to tangible measurable results, imbued with the fierce urgency of now!
Finally, this Black History Month, we lost one of the shamefully unknown greats, Syl Johnson. In 1969, not too long after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Johnson released Is it Because I’m Black…, and on the 50th anniversary of the song’s release, Mr. Johnson said: “I didn’t want to write no song about hating this people or hating that people... I really didn’t have no vendetta against people. It’s a sympathy song."
As we conclude another Black History Month, in honor of Syl Johnson, along with the many others lost and on behalf of those yet to come, not asking for expressions of sympathy, but requesting that throughout the year, and maybe even a little bit more during the month of February, we acknowledge the importance and the humanity of the Black experience because it matters. Thank you.