Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Legends of Today and Pioneers of our Past
February is Black History Month
This year, we welcome BHM during a time of adversity, divisiveness and for most of us confusion, driven by our political shift in power and differences of societal views. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the long line of historical events that continue to shape us all today, the resilience and determination of our ancestors and the affluence and richness of our culture. Not only who we are, where we came from. In the midst of our fears, hopelessness and slight trepidation of where we are headed as a Country and as a UNITED front, let’s take a moment to reflect on the great pioneers of our time and the past.
For most millennials, the great African American stars of today would be a Beyoncé, known for her massively successful career and for being the winner of 20 Grammy Awards, to say the least. Serena Williams, often called the greatest tennis player of all time, who held the title of No. 1 for 300 weeks, and currently holds the title for most Open-era, 7 Wimbledon, to name a few. Or Ta-Nehsi Coates, recognized today as the highest profile African American Writer and Journalist, winner of the 2015 National Book Award Nonfiction. And our esteemed former and first A.A POTUS, Mr. Barak Obama; Coretta Scott King, Mohamed Ali, MLK Jr, Malcolm X, Rep. John Lewis, and boy does the list go on…
Have you asked yourself about the legends that existed before your time and who they were? Let’s start with Dorothy Dandridge, 1st A.A woman to be nominated for an Academy Award during a time of great segregation, the 1950’s. Jessie Owens, a four-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, during a time when Hitler was hailed for his egregious and heinous crimes and swastika symbols were freely displayed on Olympic stage. Today, the Jesse Owens Award is regarded as the USA Track and Field’s highest honor. Novelist, essayist and playwright, James Baldwin, a Harlem native who remains the best of his time, capturing with truth and unique articulation the social injustice and inequality that remains tangible today, more than a decade preceding the Civil Rights movement, publishing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” in 1953. The history of our African American pioneers are abundant; encompassing great intellects of the 18th century, such as Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute and Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, American educator and the 1st A.A to earn a PhD from Harvard in 1909. Adventurist, such as Bessie Coleman, the 1st A.A woman to earn an international pilot license in 1921, recognized for her daring stunts in air shows performed around the world, while refusing to be slowed down by racism. And Civil Rights Activists who refused to accept the cruel act of inhumanity, slavery and injustice: Dred Scott (1795-1858), Nat Turner (1800-1831), Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), and Fredrick Douglass (1818-1995).
We must always keep in mind: We cannot fully understand who we are, and in its entirety where we are going, unless we understand where we have come from.
Mrs. Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH
Drexel University College of Medicine
Office of Diversity, Equity & inclusion