I hope that this year’s observance of Black History Month has been particularly meaningful for you and your loved ones. While Black history should be studied, shared and valued all year long, it’s always nice to pay special tribute to our proud legacy during the month of February.
History isn’t just something you read about in a book, or research from centuries past. The events that will come to define our culture, our progress and our struggle are being made every day. When times are tough, Black people always rise to the occasion and help create lasting change. In the last year, that’s exactly what we did. As I look back on one of the most turbulent and memorable years of our lives, I find gratitude in knowing that a new, dynamic chapter of Black history was written.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Black communities hard. Because of long-standing inequities, we have suffered some of the highest rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths. In addition, we have been especially vulnerable to the economic fallout from the pandemic. However, we can also take pride in Black people’s history-making role in combating this virus.
Here in Indianapolis, Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, is working tirelessly to protect Hoosiers from COVID-19. It was a Black woman named Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett who played an instrumental role in developing the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Fauci himself made a point to direct the credit toward this remarkable, brilliant scientist. Another Black woman, health care worker Sandra Lindsay, was the first person in America to receive the vaccine. She sent a bold message to countless Americans that getting this vaccine is safe, effective and the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
We also took bold action to protect Black people from police brutality and violence. Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks — just to name a few — lost their lives in 2020, but we will never forget their names. Across America and around the world, countless people stood up against injustice and demanded action.
It was Black activists who worked to ensure our pain was not ignored or forgotten. In Indiana, a group called Black Women in Charge organized one of the largest protests against racism in our city’s history. I was honored to speak at that rally and attend several other protests. I’m also honored that one of the group’s cofounders and history-makers, Taylor Hall, is currently serving as an intern for my congressional office. We also proudly recognize other groups like Indy10 Black Lives Matter for their important efforts in this ongoing struggle.
This activism helped encourage the House of Representatives to pass one of the largest and most comprehensive police reform bills in our nation’s history — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I believe we have a great chance to make it law in this new session of Congress.
This history-making year culminated in a historic presidential election, where Black people played a major role in defeating Donald Trump. Our votes made the difference in the key swing states, and this didn’t happen by accident. Organizers like Stacey Abrams helped register thousands of voters who tipped the balance of power. This new electorate also helped power the Democratic victories in the Georgia Senate races, making Rev. Raphael Warnock Georgia’s first Black senator. These big wins in Georgia give me hope that Black voters can help spark groundbreaking change in other red states, including Indiana.
I’m also pleased to give a shout out to our first Black vice president, Kamala Harris, who has assumed this powerful role with a strong sense of duty, courage, honor and grace. Because of her, Black women and girls like my daughter can feel even more confident in achieving their dreams.
Black history is happening every day, which is why we should give thanks every day for the Black people who are breaking barriers and making their mark. We all have a role to play in making our world a better place for Black people, and for all.
Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He is a Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of three Muslims in Congress. Rep. Carson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.