By Jacquie Jeffers, State of North Carolina Martin Luther King, Jr. Commissioner
Black History Month is a celebration of an amazing culture! African Americans have made tremendous contributions to the fabric of America. For example, Dr. Shirley Jackson, a theoretical physicist, developed the touch-tone telephone, caller ID and the fiber-optic cable. Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the closed-circuit television security system, and Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. created mathematical models to explain gamma radiation. Gerald A. Lawson, a largely self-taught engineer who became a pioneer in electronic video entertainment, created the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges.
Even though we have the Internet with many search engines to research the accomplishments of African Americans year round, people are not aware of their outstanding contributions. A week-long recognition of African American achievements by history educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson began as an awareness of pride for students in his school and community. Investigating noteworthy inventors, doctors, chemists, engineers, lawyers, architects, educators, and other professions was a resounding opportunity to change the mindset and career path of individuals. Woodson selected February to include the birthdays of influential leaders President Abraham Lincoln and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Black History Month evolved into a national month of acknowledgment by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
As an African American, I am proud to know that my culture has been a part of making the world a place of diversity. In order for all of us to better understand each other, it is essential to develop an acceptance of contributions that affect us all. Out of necessity, inventions are made not because of what someone looks like, but what is needed. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first Black psychiatrist in the United States who researched degenerative brain disorders with Dr. Alois Alzheimer while in medical school and became an authority on Alzheimer’s Disease research. His resolution to end this disease was to simply end it for anyone affected.
My desire in knowing how I can follow in the footsteps of my ancestors to be a better person at whatever I do will hopefully make an impact for others to have a positive purpose. I use my God given gifts to inspire those around me to believe in themselves and to never settle for the mediocre. Maya Angelou, a treasured award winning writer, poet, and speaker once stated:
“No person can imagine where he is going unless he knows where he’s been.”
Let’s move forward by celebrating Black History Month beyond February and grow together 365 days of each year.