Reflecting about Black History Month 2010 and the numerous contributions of African Americans throughout history, I am reminded of a speech I delivered before the California School Board Association delegate assembly in May 2005. It was a poignant moment for me as a junior school board trustee. I was taking a stand during a high-profile school district debate about access to public education. Here are some excerpts from those remarks:
“Trailblazers paved the way for justice. Their legacy encapsulates for us a message of tenacity, civic responsibility, and courage in the face of adversity.
You see there was a woman named Rosa who refused to stand up…in the name of equality. And then there was another known as Coretta who would not just stay on the sidelines at home raising children…but she continued her husband’s message of justice. And neither is to be undone by Shirley. You know the one who dared to run as a 1972 contender to become the first African American female president. All did so in the name of equity. And did we not marvel at the eloquence and candor of Barbara for her vision to impart truth and fairness?
The lives of Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan were all visionaries with words and lives that still inspire us. Their lives encouraged us to keep up the fight for equity, accountability, and our unequivocal commitment to saving our youth and improving our schools. And yet there is still much work to do.”
While I didn’t know at the time, these courageous trailblazers provided a solid backdrop for my remarks. More importantly, their legacy helped confirm that leaders may not always know the long-term impact of their actions. Thank goodness these black history month figures took a stand so that I could as well in my quest for equity.