Today marks the beginning of Black History Month (BHM), a time to celebrate the achievements of Black men and women in North America. It is important to note that BHM was not created to minimize the contributions of others, nor should it be used as a means to rewrite history. Like many of the other “diversity” months, BHM started as a way to raise awareness and educate everyone about the contributions of well-known and not-so-well known Blacks in America.
As a Black woman, I reflect on the importance of Black History Month in terms of lessons learned and how they shape the future. Like the story of the Sankofa bird, who flies with its feet facing forward and its head looking back – there is value in learning from the past, bringing it to the present, and building the future. We must learn about and acknowledge the dark history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination, but we also must arm ourselves with the knowledge of the lasting positive impact and legacy of many great Black leaders across the globe. Our history is our future.
While Women’s History Month follows soon, BHM is a time when I reflect on the amazing accomplishments of Black women and other women of color. There is so much rich history in “herstory.” I am thankful for all the Black women who paved the way for women like me AND women everywhere. I always look to my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated for inspiration and activism. One of the first social action initiatives of the Sorority’s Founders was marching with other women suffragists to demand the right to vote. Imagine the danger and risks facing 22 young, Black college-age women in 1913! Now, that’s some history! This pioneering spirit of advocacy continues to this day. Our collective hands and voices move the needle for social change in the U.S. and beyond. Recently, the President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Cheryl Hickmon, passed away. We pay homage to her leadership by continuing the focus on community service, political awareness, and social action.
You don’t have to be Black to celebrate BHM and embrace the impact Black leaders and organizers have had on the daily lives, protections, and rights for people regardless of color, race, sex, or culture across the globe. In the world of philanthropy, our collaboration matters. How do we, together, ensure “herstories” of Black women are told? How do we maintain the gains made? How can we protect those hard-won rights? How can we build the strong coalitions that will fight the forces determined to take us back 100 years?
There may not be one singular answer to these questions, but together we can reflect, celebrate, and then take action. I am proud to stand with all the members of the Women’s Funding Network in solidarity. Happy Black History Month!
Suzanne B. Peters
WFN Board Vice-Chair
Principal, Peters Associates