today in black history

April 24, 2024

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was incorporated on this date in 1927 with 27 member colleges.

Now is not the time

POSTED: August 20, 2022, 8:00 am

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Like a heavyweight contender in the 10th round, bruised and fatigued, but on the cusp of a championship, Black Americans are in the late rounds of a centuries old fight to claim our rightful spoils from our ancestors’ labor in building the United States. It would be easy, and understandable, if we admitted defeat at this point and surrendered to the hate that confronts our black-skin existence daily in this country. The energy we must expend to simply have our humanity recognized in the mundane tasks of each day is enough to overwhelm even the strongest of wills, but in this critical moment of our existence, we must summon the strength and will to declare our intention to overcome White supremacy.

These seem like the darkest days for in every direction we look our very presence is under assault. It is no coincidence that the rise of a fascist politician, Donald Trump, coincides with the emergence of White militias and extremist groups, violence, and White nationalist religiosity intent on subjugating Black people in a post-Reconstruction caste system. The message is clear coming from these quarters – the United States is a White country where Black people have no rights and where a White God has ordained it so. Despite this quackery, and the seeming impenetrable barriers to full and equal citizenship, Black people do not exist in a state of helplessness, and we should not wallow in hopelessness. We shall overcome is not simply aspirational, it is possible and possible now.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

Despite social indices that infer these are the worst of times, Black America is positioned to assert itself in ways that would not have been possible just three decades ago. One of the clearest signs is the growing recognition across the nation that the United States must account for its racist past and that Black grievances are legitimate. Whether it is the removal of offensive Confederate statues in public spaces, the placement of historical markers in places of Black pain and suffering, or the renaming of streets and schools, the legitimacy of the Black experience in America is finally being recognized. This acknowledgment includes the recent string of convictions of White men held accountable for the killing of Black civilians. While these convictions are still too infrequent, the outcomes in the trials of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd incident and the hate crime convictions of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan in the death of Ahmaud Arbery suggest an awakening to Black pain and suffering.

We are also witnessing an amazing period of elevation of Black women. Today, we have a Black female Vice President and a Black female serving as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, Black female prosecutors in large jurisdictions, a Black female county executive and a Black female Attorney General in one of the largest states in the nation, New York. Certainly, still underrepresented in major decision-making roles, Black women are asserting their leadership and presence in ways heretofore unseen. While having exercised leadership historically, the recognition of Black women in these roles has been a long time coming and only serves to further strengthen the fabric of Black life in America.

During these supposed ‘dark days,’ we are also seeing a resurgence of interest among Black youth in the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). While college enrollment is declining in general, HBCUs are experiencing a boost as Black youth seek a culturally affirming college experience. HBCUs across the country are bursting at the seams, challenged to accommodate the influx of students. My alma mater, Morgan State University, is building new residence halls as it experiences record enrollment and a freshman class of 2300+ students. This trend reflects the larger reality of Generation Z, a cohort that has come of age in the environment of police brutality, climate change, economic uncertainty and a rise in domestic terrorism and fascism. This is a generation that, contrary to depiction, is culturally and politically conscious and setting the stage for their engagement in civil society, on their own terms. I believe this generation will redefine the Black experience in America in a positive and liberatory way.

The other positive sign for Black America is the growing recognition of the wealth disparity and the importance of economic freedom in a capitalist society. Across the country we are witnessing a rising spirit of entrepreneurism in the Black community, given fuel by the ‘Great Resignation’ of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rejection of the traditional labor pact. Not all these efforts will be successful, or result in profit-making enterprises, but the energy from these efforts will certainly result in successes that will become job generators and wealth builders. We cannot deny the importance of money in creating opportunity and investments in a wide swath of activities that can improve the quality of life for Black people.

There is no denying that significant challenges confront Black life in America, the most persistent being racism and the embrace of White supremacist ideology. We cannot ignore the impact of racism on our lives and should discount any voice that attempts to minimize the way racism betrays our humanity. Still, we are at a point in time, a moment in history, when our accumulated assets create a significant opportunity to kill the deficit narrative that has defined the Black community for far too long. This is a time for elevation predicated on self-determination and the recognition and utilization of Black intellectual capital and vision.

Walter Fields is the Executive Director of

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