Written by Kishima Garcia, Executive Vice President of Human Capital & Strategies, Quiet Professionals, LLC
As a child, I did not consider myself black until someone told me that I was. The color of my skin was not a subject that came up in my community, because the color of my skin or any other person in my community did not matter to me and did not matter to them. The first time I filled out an official form requiring me to identify myself as a particular demographic, I was confused. My color or demographic was not an option on the form, so I choose other. When I got home that evening and told my mother about the form that I had filled out she explained to me for the first time in my life the concept of my skin color.
Where I grew up was a melting pot of many different people from many different backgrounds with many different skin colors… and none of them were black in my eyes. They were colorful. I was born and raised as a U.S Citizen, yet as a youth, I was often baffled by the terminology used to describe people of color who are also U.S Citizens, as if to separate them. The history that was taught to me described struggle, perseverance, and pride. I grew up in the epicenter of black history and yet all I knew was a colorful culture. The only colors that mattered to me were the ones that are worn because color is a means of expressing yourself, the bolder the more beautiful. Because of the people who came before me I was allowed to see bright colors (positivity), not dark ones (negativity). This enabled me to appreciate and embrace the colors of people from all cultures, not just mine.
I recall in junior high, singing one of the most uplifting songs that I had ever heard in my life. The song was bold, it was strong, and it was tremendously impactful. When I sang it, I felt proud. Music was so much a part of my life and I loved singing because it was a part of my culture and an extension of my soul. I sang every song proudly because that is what I was taught to do and that is what was ingrained in me, but this song was different. It meant something very special, something more than I could comprehend at the time. A few years later, I came to realize the song that had such an impact on me was classified as the Black National Anthem. Originally a poem, the song Lift every Voice and Sing was written by James Weldon, a NAACP leader. The song was first performed on President’s day on February 12, 1900, by a choir of 500 children who attended a segregated school where Mr. Weldon was the school Principal. Although it has been a while since I sang those words, I will never forget it.
Black History Month is a reminder of the contributions that were made by people colorful inside and out, who helped build, mold, and create the world we live in today. From prominent world infrastructures, medical discoveries, calculations of space travel and many other things, we benefit from the necessary contributions that shape our world history every day. There are many unsung heroes that are not documented in history books many times only because of the color of their skin. This Black History Month, take some time to learn something that you previously did not know about the contributions that were made by people of color who continue to impact the world we live in today.