By Sheriff Rochelle Bilal
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the official designation of February as Black History Month – just a drop in the bucket of time pooled from centuries of Black people making history in the United States, and of this country’s history being thrust upon us.
As we strive to place special emphasis upon all that Black people have endured, survived, and accomplished in America, we need to honor our recent history, which both shows how far we have come – and how far we have to go.
Months of civil protest brought about by the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others; the echoes of countless past health care injustices heard in the disproportionate number of Black people succumbing to COVID-19; and the ugly spectacle of so many Confederate flags, hats and shirts defiling the Capitol during last month’s insurrection – this course of human events has underscored that not only must the struggle continue, but it must be memorialized at the same time.
Make no mistake: There is plenty of history to celebrate as well, not just this month, but at all times. The soaring poetry of Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden; the essential, life-saving work being performed daily by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium; the groundbreaking entertainment empire of Shonda Rhimes giving us all a much-needed escape from the 21st century; Oprah Winfrey setting the standard for Black women entrepreneurship and industry influence – this is all history in the making.
We must all do our part to not just reflect on the accomplishments of the past, but to create our own history for our children and our children’s children, especially given the theme of this year’s Black History Month, “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” which urges us to explore the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States.
Understanding our history played such a crucial role in my decision to run to become the first Black female Sheriff of Philadelphia.
Now, one year after triumphing over decades’ worth of obstacles to do so, I can tell my children and all the younger generations: You can do this – because I did.