When I think of Black History Month, my mind immediately goes to a quote from Bob Marley ? “Don't forget your history nor your destiny.”
The month of February is a time to honor those that came before us and celebrate all of the contributions Black people have made in the United States and around the world. It reminds me that my present is built on the dreams, the struggles and the triumphs of many Black men and women who came before me.
I think of women like Daisy Bates who played an integral part in ending segregation in Arkansas schools and helped to start one of the first Black newspapers dedicated to the Civil Rights movement. I remember suffrage supporter Anna Julia Cooper, who convinced Black women that their voices needed to be heard and their vote was just as important.
When I was 12 years old, I watched history unfold as Dr. Mae Jemison became the first Black female astronaut to travel into space. I was so excited to see her on TV, and I wanted to be the next Black astronaut in space. When I entered high school, I found a new dream — becoming a doctor like Dr. Alexa Canady, who was the first Black woman to become a neurosurgeon in 1981.
I obviously did not follow either of those career paths. Instead, I followed in the footsteps of Janice Hebron, a Black female fast food manager whose career in food service spanned from the late 1970s through the 1990s. At this time, there weren’t many women in the industry — and even fewer Black women. She carved her own path and became a role model and mentor for many — including me.
Janice Hebron — or Mommy, as she insists that I call her to this day — was my first and most impactful example of a hardworking, compassionate Black leader. She instilled in me a passion for serving and the knowledge that caring for another person is one of the most important things we can do with our lives.
There are days when the social injustices that Black women and men still face threatens to steal away my hope. I am devastated to my core by the incomprehensible number of lives stolen, like Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Yet, I remain encouraged for the future because of so many Black heroes who fought for the rights and opportunities that I have today. I can tap in to the richness of our shared Black history to renew my spirit. I am grateful to those who have and are still breaking through barriers so that others can move further and live their destiny.