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Monday, April 15, 2024

Black History: What we’ve done and have left to do.

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Happy Black History Month!

Rep. Andre Carson

As Black Americans, we have much to celebrate. Our joy – which has always shone through even in dark times. Our strength – which has carried us through generations. And our history – full of leaders, visionaries, artists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers.

Fairness and equal rights are not standalone issues. They should be the bedrock of every aspect of government. From the economy, to infrastructure that ensures strong public transit and safe roads, to our environment, we must always address fairness. Here are just a few ways I’m working to shape a stronger, more equitable future:

Expanding Youth Opportunity

Mentorship is important for everyone, but especially for young Black students. While we would like to believe every young person receives the same opportunities, the statistics tell a different, unfortunate story. Black students are less likely to earn college degrees because of discrimination and other challenges. Black students are 54 percent less likely than white students to be recommended for gifted-education programs. And Black students experience stereotypes in media and pop culture that have harmful effects on their mental health.

I want to make sure every young person in America can access opportunity. Mentoring programs are key to that goal – students who are mentored are less likely to skip school or use drugs, and more likely to attend college. That’s why I’ve introduced two youth mentoring bills aimed at supporting mentoring opportunities – the Transition to Success Mentoring Act (which helps local education agencies prepare students for the transition from middle school to high school), and the Student Helping Young Students Act, (which provides compensation for college student mentors who help younger students). Mentoring works; it helped me through every stage of my life. It can mean the difference between graduating high school and dropping out, but the impact goes deeper than that. Black youth need to feel heard, seen, and understood. Having a trusted adult to confide in outside of school or family can result in dramatically different outcomes.

Indianapolis has many enriching opportunities for young people, but connecting with those opportunities can be a challenge. My annual Youth Opportunities Fair helps to bridge that gap. With over 65 vendors available with job opportunities, summer programing, volunteering, and more, there’s something for everyone. I invite all Indy residents to join this free event on March 12 from noon – 7 p.m. at the Ivy Tech Culinary and Conference Center. You can learn more on my website at www.carson.house.gov.

Improving Health Outcomes

Health disparities persist.  Black Americans are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. When caught early, outcomes for pancreatic cancer improve, but too many Black Americans aren’t diagnosed until the cancer is advanced and therefore inoperable. I’ve long fought to increase pancreatic cancer research and funding and will continue to do so, especially as Black Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by this terrible disease.

Access to affordable health insurance is also essential to achieve public health goals. In December, I discussed why it’s more important than ever to defend the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This year, registration for the Affordable Care Act surged, with a 30.7% increase in sign-ups nationally. That means more Americans than ever can access the care they need to live longer, healthier lives. Much of the enrollment increases can be attributed to changes I voted for in the American Rescue Plan, which ensured more people than ever qualify for help paying for health coverage. The Affordable Care Act was President Obama’s signature legislation for a reason – healthcare is the foundation for every American’s success.

Honoring Black Americans

Black Americans built America. We have a rightful place in history books and we deserve recognition for our accomplishments, including the oldest and highest civilian award in the U.S. That’s why I’m leading a bill to award Muhammad Ali the Congressional Gold Medal. Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest” in sports, but he fought for equality as hard as he fought inside the boxing ring. I’m also cosponsoring a bill to award Indianapolis’ own Marshall “Major” Taylor a Congressional Gold Medal. Both these men overcame racism to excel in their sport and exemplify how you don’t have to fit into one box to be an advocate and an activist.

It’s more important than ever to spotlight Black history and Black icons. Book bans of real history, and stories discussing racism are being targeted at alarming rates. These attempts are designed to silence our voices and whitewash history.  

Black History is American history. This month, we learn from the challenges we’ve faced and grow stronger for the work ahead. But let’s also pause and celebrate the reasons for Black pride and joy. Congress historically took away the humanity, dignity and rights of people who look like me, yet today, I have the honor to serve in this institution, along with my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues. Our stories matter. Our voices matter. As your representative, I will always fight to make them both heard.   No matter what, our community will keep lifting each other up and succeeding and inspiring those who come behind us.

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