When I think of Black History Month I get excited and then I become extremely sad. The excitement is because I’m abundantly proud of the tremendous history and achievements of African Americans but sadness lurks because the reality is that Black Americans are still a long way from achieving equality. Our history is secured for other cultures in this world to understand and even emulate due to notable accomplishments in all areas of society – science (Dr. Charles Drew); business (Reginald Lewis); politics (President Barack Obama); entertainment (Patti LaBelle, one of my favorites); and sports (Serena Williams). These individuals came from humble beginnings to reach extraordinary heights.
With all the enthusiasm that surrounds the achievements of these great Americans – black Americans – we still have a long way to go to make sure all our African Americans have the opportunity to achieve success in their perspective careers. Our African American men are under attack from negative perceptions and bigotry from gun violence and unequal incarceration that creates a void in leadership in the black communities.
Society has a perception of black men as criminals, unfit fathers, uneducated and even scary individuals – stereotypes that threaten and create financially instability. As a black man, a black businessman, I wake up and combat these stereotypes every day. What I see in this community are fathers, brothers, uncles, businessmen, teachers – positive men devoted to making sure we emulate good moral standards and serve as a beacon for their community.
These images are portrayed in the black community need to truly reflect the valued work African American men are doing in America. The real joy in celebrating Black History is reminding ourselves that the true picture of African American men is still bright and honored.