It is Black History Month! Every year in February, we celebrate the countless contributions we’ve made throughout history even as we struggle to gain freedoms in a country we helped build. Our battles against historical amnesia are never-ending so it is somewhat a sigh of relief whenever February comes around because it forces a nation to pay attention to our achievements and to take note of our continued resilience as a people. It is a time when there is more of a concerted effort to increase the visibility of Black life.
Black History Month is also a time of self-pride, inspiration, and as more seasoned folks, we should take this opportunity to especially educate our children about its importance and how they should contribute to the upliftment of the race. We should constantly expose our youth to Black history so that they can be fueled by the greatness that preceded them. Let the children understand that although the chains that bound us in slavery have been removed, we are still not free! We have traveled quite a distance to get to where we are but we still have a long way to go! It is imperative that we continue to teach and preach about our heritage because this is what will hold us together.
Our past is what inspires and drives us to achieve and to make things better for our people. We must continue to remember and to honor those who came before us because there is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history!
Every year since 1976 there has been a theme for Black History Month. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote” which recognizes the struggle for voting rights among both Black men and women throughout this country’s history. The theme is set each year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment: “The right of citizens…to vote shall not be denied or abridged…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The year 2020 is also the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote.
We rounded up inspiring quotes about the importance of us getting involved in the democratic process by voting. The powerful words come from African American icons who left a mark on this country and who clearly understood the struggles we’ve faced in trying to secure the right to vote:
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry about the federal government about our basic rights.
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the South and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.
Give us the ballot, and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.
Give us the ballot, and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a ‘Southern Manifesto’ because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.
Give us the ballot, and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy, and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who will, who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine.
Give us the ballot, and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s (Brown) decision of May seventeenth, 1954.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred, so go out and vote like you never voted before.”
– Rep. John Lewis, politician and civil rights activist
“We come as the children of Dr. King to say we are going to face Jim Crow’s children — Jim Crow had a son called James Crow, Jr., Esquire. He writes voting suppression laws and puts it in language that looks different but the results are the same.”
– Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist
“You’ve got to vote, vote, vote, vote. That’s it; that’s the way we move forward. That’s how we make progress for ourselves and for our country.”
– Michelle Obama, Former First Lady
“Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
-Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund
“There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters.”
– Barack Obama, Former President of the U.S.
“So whatever you do, please don’t stay home on Election Day. Whether your polling place is a school, a fire station, or a post office, whether you pull a lever, press a button, or check a box with a pencil, do the patriotic thing, the American thing. Choose wisely. Choose.”
– Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, actress, philanthropist
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was indeed a vital instrument of democracy, ensuring the integrity and reliability of a democratic process that we as a country hold so dear.”
– Charles Rangel, American politician