February marks Black History Month, a federally recognized, nationwide celebration that calls on all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that African-Americans have played in shaping US history. This article from Huffington Post says it best regarding why Black History Month is so important: America, though dangerously flawed, wouldn’t have half of the opportunities, liberties and infrastructure it has today had it not been for the backs of black people upon which this country was built. And because black history is American history, erasing the contributions of black Americans makes it impossible to accurately tell the story of this country.
Each year, we celebrate the contributions of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, and it is absolutely essential to never forget their legacies or all that they fought for. That said, we’re lucky to be alive at a time where there are so many powerful black icons changing the world we live in today and using their talents to make an impact on our society. I’m proud to be a millennial, known as one of the most progressive and tolerant generations in modern history, but we all know there is still work to be done when it comes to truly having equality in our country. So this Black History Month, I wanted to celebrate just a few of the many black icons that have defined modern day America (and no doubt will continue to do so).
Here are some of the most inspiring quotes from our generation’s black leaders. I encourage everyone to celebrate their accomplishments not only this month, but year-round.
- Ava DuVernay, film director. “When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.”
- Chadwich Boseman, actor and star of Black Panther. “When I think of going to work everyday, and the passion and the intelligence, the resolve, the discipline that everybody showed, I also think of two questions that we all have received during the course of multiple publicity runs.And one is: Did we know that this movie was going to get this kind of response, meaning was it going to make a billion dollars, was it still going to be around during this awards season? And the second question is: Has it changed the industry? Has it actually changed how this industry works, how it sees us? And my answer to that is, to be young, gifted and black.”
- Cory Booker, US Senator. “Go out there and swear to this world your oath, not with your words, but with what you do. Not with your hand over your heart, but with your hand outstretched to a world that desperately needs your hand, your help, your insights, your creativity, your honor, your courage. It needs you.”
- Michelle Obama, former First Lady. “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
- Kerry Washington, actress. “I don’t decide to play the characters I play as a political choice. Yet the characters I play often do become political statements. Because having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, or as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling and inclusive representations.”
- Colin Kaepernick, NFL player. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
- Viola Davis, actress. “As black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences — experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”
- Shonda Rhimes, TV producer. “I spent a lot of times sitting in big rooms full of a lot of men and executives thinking, ‘What would Oprah say right now?’ and trying to channel that as hard as I could. And mostly that was just about having the confidence. If this woman did it, it can be done. And there’s no reason for anybody to stop you.”
- John Legend, musician. “When we see people that are impoverished and people who are dealt an unfair hand, then if we have the power to help them, we should try to do that.”
- Kamala Harris, US Senator. “What’s important for my daughter to know is that… if you are fortunate to have opportunity, it is your duty to make sure other people have those opportunities as well.”