While I do not only take one month out of the entire year to return to my roots, Black History Month is a time where the African-American community returns to their roots together. As an African-American young woman, I am inspired by the Black men of the past who have led movements and pushed for the rights I have today, but I am empowered by the women who stood beside these men; I am empowered by the women who fought for my rights as a woman of color; and I am empowered by these women to be a leader who will lead others.
The people that are most often recognized and remembered throughout the year are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Jesse Owens, and Maya Angelou, to name a few. Black History Month is time where the unsung heroes who have played just as important of a role in Black history to be recognized. Growing up in a predominantly white community, I was only exposed to the names of the prominent players of history. When I return to my roots during Black History Month, my world of heroes grows. There are so many men and women leaders who changed the world and accomplished what others believed they couldn’t, and I want to acknowledge just a few of the many.
The first African-American woman who I’d like to recognize is Coretta Scott King. While her name is better known than others, the extent of her work and legacy is not. Coretta Scott King not only supported her husband, but she was also an activist in her own right. Coretta Scott King founded the Center for Non-Violent Social Change to continue her husband’s dream and carry on his work; she fought for LGBT rights, creating her own legacy; she was the valedictorian of her high school class and received multiple degrees in her lifetime, Coretta Scott King led the march that her husband organized in the days following his death. Coretta Scott King is an inspiring woman and someone that needs to be known for more than just the Civil Rights Movement.
Another empowering African-American woman is Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm became the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress, in 1968. Representing New York, she continued to serve another seven terms. Not only to did Chisholm hold one of the highest positions in the United States government, she accomplished this as a woman of color. Shirley Chisholm is inspiring in the fact that she was able to become who she did during a time where she faced racism and discrimination, and continued to do her job for years in the face of adversity.
Finally, a third inspiring Black woman is Dr. Patricia Bath. Bath is not only renowned for being the first Black female doctor to receive a medical patent, but specifically for what one of her patent was for: helping the blind see. Dr. Bath created the Laserphaco Probe which made cataract removal less invasive and restoring sight to blind patients, as well as revolutionized the field of surgery in the world. She also advocated for the use of technology in order to provide patients who live in distant areas access to medicine.
These three individuals inspire me to speak up, be a leader in the face of adversity, and help to make changes in the world. Central Catholic provides a safe space to celebrate my culture and these inspirational individuals, as well as challenges me to set goals and have accomplishments of my own. In my time here, I have learned more about Black History month and have grown tremendously. Through my experience at Central Catholic, I have been able to become a leader as the Diversity Committee chair and, most importantly, I have returned to my roots.
Special thanks to guest writer Maija Pham ’18 for writing this piece.