Honoring Black History Month

Carolyn Leighton

February 09, 2020

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Many of the leaders who shaped American Black History have been my personal heroes for decades. They are standout examples of inspiring leadership, courage, commitment to change. These are just a few examples of the many black leaders who risked their lives on a daily basis to make things better not only for their own people, but for all of us who believe in human rights and equality.

Rosa Parks, a woman I have admired ever since I learned about her as a child. How many of us would have the courage to refuse to take a seat where "white people were seated" at a time when blacks were treated as second class citizens forced to sit at the back of the bus. Imagine the courage it took for a woman to make that decision! Take a serious look at how that decision changed history and how the decisions you make can impact equality and human rights.

Martin Luther King - One of my all time heroes. Growing up, whenever I had the opportunity to listen to the great Martin Luther King, I stopped everything I was doing and was filled with inspiration. I could not believe the courage, the leadership, the wisdom coming from this passionate, intelligent, amazing leader. Every day he risked his LIFE to publicly demand respect and equal opportunity for his people. How many of us take a stand, risking far less, for what is right for those of us around us who are not treated with respect and equality?

Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York. She broke ground again four years later in 1972 when she was the first major party African American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States.

Self-Made Millionaire: Madam C.J. Walker was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and became wealthy after inventing a line of African American hair care products. She established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories and was also known for her philanthropy.

Oscar Winner: In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American performer to win an Academy Award - the film industry's highest honor - for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind.

First Professional Black Baseball Player: On April 5, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He led the league in stolen bases that season and was named Rookie of the Year.

First Black Billionaire: Before Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan joined the billionaire's club, Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable station he founded, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2001

President Barack Obama, the first black President in 2008. How I miss his inspiring Leadership!

Elijah Cummings - My Tribute
It is important to notice that black leaders are examples of women and men, throughout history, taking the most courageous stand for basic human equality.

Each of us must stand shoulder to shoulder with each other to demonstrate to the racists everywhere - in our workplace, our communities - our 100% commitment and support for our black colleagues and their contributions to human rights.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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