by Candice Harden, Class of 2019
Each February commemorates the celebration of African Americans’ social, cultural, & economic contributions to America and the world. Founded in 1976 as the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson, February was selected as the month as it coincides with the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Both men are honored as freedom fighters to end the heinous enslavement of Black people from the African diaspora. As a result, Black History Month is celebrated around the world including in the UK & Canada.
Who should celebrate Black History? Everyone is invited to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans: from George Washington Carver’s peanut development to Madam CJ Walker’s entrepreneurial feats. African Americans’ impact on global, social, cultural, and economic trends are undeniable. What is Paris without Jazz and America without Wall Street, which started as a slave trading post? By celebrating Black history, we acknowledge African Americans’ value to our society. After all, Black history is American history.
How should you celebrate? Celebrating Black History Month involves connecting with individuals of the African diaspora and commemorating African American’s accomplishments - both past and present. The African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) organized several programs this month with this goal in mind including a movie night co-sponsored with OUTReach and Net Impact, the Investing in Africa panel co-sponsored with the Chicago African Business Group (CABG), and an LPF hosted at Buddy Guy’s on 2/23.
If you were unable to attend these events, we invite you to engage with us in thoughtful, hate-free discussions about our experience as Black people in America. You can honor our ancestors’ legacy by opening your mind to our unique experiences Listening with an earnest level of credulousness mixed with genuine curiosity will usher an honest, open conversation. Discussions on race in America are becoming taboo as the non-existent “post-racial” after Obama’s presidency. I encourage you to sharpen your leadership skills by invoking empathy and a consciousness about your privileges. Whether that privilege is based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, class, or a host of other factors, it is critical to humbly interrogate our privileges. In fact, I challenge us all to leverage the privilege of attending the nation’s top Business school and continue learning how to develop meaningful relationships with individuals who come from different backgrounds. Thus, we would enhance our human capital development investment.
Why should you celebrate? Because Black lives matter. One small way of perpetuating this belief is to simply acknowledge our value. Acknowledging our value can take the form of open discussions with African Americans, developing empathy for diverse business men and women, and being honest about your biases. Side note: even if you choose not to acknowledge our value doesn't mean it does not exist. For example, you can deny the financial crisis took place in 2008 but that still does not remove its significant impact to our economy.