Reflections from DRTx Staff on Black History Month

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Our Human Resource Team interviewed some of DRTx’s Black disability rights advocates and attorneys about Black History Month (BHM). Here are some of the things they had to say. Our sincere thanks to Marvin, LaRita, and Danielle for taking the time to share their thoughts.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Marvin: “Black History Month honors our ancestors, change-makers, and revolutionaries—both the well-known names and the unheard-of and forgotten individuals. Many of them worked tirelessly, yet the fruits of their labor often went unseen and unenjoyed. Our freedoms owe much to their efforts. While we often appreciate the stories and legends, it is essential to express our gratitude to the human side of these individuals who dedicated parts of themselves to improve our society.”

Larita on the left with a friend on the right
LaRita (left)

LaRita: “During the month of February, I take extra time to reflect on my life story and the stories of everyone that has helped to pave the path that I walk on. I use both the terms Black and African American history. Black History is a part of my everyday life. Whether I am talking with a relative who just happens to be the first African-American man to work as a clerk in a public bank in Falls County, Texas, or sitting down to eat lunch with three prestigious Navy officers, learning (trying to learn) Pidgin Bantu or working to convince young women, of any color, that they too can be the first person in their family to go to college. I am aware that everything that I do also becomes part of a larger history. Black History Month for me is about taking the time to acknowledge and cherish those whose hard won accomplishments made it possible for me to go forward and help pave the path for others.”

Danielle: “To me, Black History Month means an opportunity to reflect on the significant innovations that African Americans have made to the United States in the areas of Advocacy & Social Justice, Law, Education, Poetry, Health, Science, Fine Arts and Entertainment for the betterment of our society and culture.”

How are you observing this month?

Marvin: “I am being intentional about supporting Black-owned businesses, not just during this month but as part of my regular consumer choices. I am attending cultural events, performances and discussions in the Austin Metro area that provide a platform for authentic conversations about Black history and contemporary issues.”

LaRita: “This year I am working with a church group of kids between the ages of 8 to 12 who are learning about Black Trail Blazers living and gone who have helped the community as a whole here in Houston, Texas, with a “History is closer than you think” project.  I am also learning more about my genetic past and working towards one day visiting West Africa.”

Danielle at sorority event wearing a beautiful green corsage
Danielle at a sorority event

Danielle: “I celebrate Black History Month throughout the month and year through my support for black owned businesses by attending ‘Black Market Vendor’ events, attending and exploring various culture events, such as Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, book readings, museum exhibits, and restaurants. Additionally, I am a proud active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated which is the oldest Greek Lettered African American Sorority founded in 1908 with a membership of over 300,000 women who are committed to providing service to all mankind throughout our communities, states, nation, and the world.”

What do you want your coworkers and colleagues to know most about BHM?

Marvin: “Black History Month means the appreciation and acknowledgement of Blackness and how it touches all aspects of our society. It is a celebration of the radical joy and resilience of Black folk, including women, nonbinary, trans, queer and disabled people. It’s a reminder that the level of respect shown during this month is something that needs to be consistent the entire year. It’s a call to action to continue to advocate for and uplift those within society who are often pushed to the margins.”

LaRita: “This month and during future Black History Months, take the time to listen to the histories of those in your local community.  It is not only the big 4= MLK, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver. Yes, they are important and had an impact on the lives of thousands. But so are Charles Rhinehart (1st African-American to be admitted to University of Houston in 1961, now 83 years old), Barbara Jordan (my first big hero to see in person and 1st African-American Texas Senator) and Lee Brown (59th Mayor of Houston, still living). You never know, your next-door neighbor may be a truly phenomenal individual. Today as so many seek to change how history is viewed and learned, always remember the old adage those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Embrace the good, the bad and the ugly parts of history and work to make a better story for everyone.”

Danielle: “Black History is a very rich culture of various depths.  Be open and curious to research the achievements of various Black Americans that have made major contributions to our beautiful and diverse United States of America. If you are ever in the Washington D.C. and surrounding areas, plan a trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for an unforgettable experience through the Black Legacy: Past, Present, & Future.”

Here are some websites Danielle suggests for people to explore and learn more:

Marvin also ask that we share this picture of Trayvon Martin while attending aviation camp, and asked that we include it with this thought, “Rest in Power, Trayvon.”

Trayvon Martin at aviation camp