Happy Black History Month! Though we should celebrate the amazing contributions of African Americans year-round, February presents a special opportunity to honor our collective history and proud legacy. And what a legacy it is!
This year’s celebration is especially poignant as we recognize 401 years of Africans in America — long before America became America. African Americans helped found this country. African Americans have enriched our nation through hard physical labor, by clearing the fields for colonial crops, by fighting the British in the Revolutionary War, and by building the edifices of new nation — from Mount Vernon to the United States Capitol. African Americans have made amazing contributions in the arts, business, public service, sports, science and much more. Our story is one of pain, perseverance and triumph, and it’s still being written.
During Black History Month, I’m particularly reflective of these iconic African Americans, whose achievements define “Black excellence.” They fought bondage, discrimination, bigotry, and hatred to achieve what many believed was unachievable for African Americans. Though these heroes and sheroes lived in many different eras of history, come from a wide array of backgrounds, and boast many different achievements, they all dared to dream, and they had the gumption to go after them.
Much of this fortitude grows out of the reality that only the strongest were able to survive the interminable Middle Passage. Only the strongest survived the physical chains of slavery. But amazingly, we drew on the strength and spirit of our ancestors. All of this helped to build the heart and soul of our community — a community that strives to take care of all people and give all of our kids a solid foundation. This foundation sets the stage for success and achievement.
For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who came of age in the heart of the segregated South, was deeply involved in the community of Ebenezer Baptist Church. There, he gained a strong sense of compassion and a commitment to social justice, which helped him grow into the moral leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
Michelle Obama developed a love of dance during her early years, and as first lady, she used that passion to inspire all Americans to live more active lives through her “Let’s Move” campaign.
As a child, Denzel Washington found inspiration and role models through his involvement in the Boys and Girls Club. And as an adult, the award-winning actor has used his platform to support the organization.
It’s clear that for African Americans, and for all Americans, the opportunities we have as children help shape our entire lives. This is especially true when kids are up against enormous obstacles. A club, a sport, a job or a volunteer position can be a lifeline that helps lead someone to a brighter future.
That’s why for seven years now, I have hosted my Youth Opportunities Fair, to connect young people with educational and inspiring experiences right here in our community. It is one of my favorite events of the year, because it has been so successful in enriching the lives of countless young Hoosiers.
The event will be held noon to 7 p.m. Monday, March 16 at the Indianapolis Central Library. Attendees will be able to chat with organizations offering a wide array of enrichment opportunities for ages 5 and up, plus businesses offering jobs for working age youth.
For young people seeking work opportunities, professional volunteers will also be there to offer helpful tips for success, such as how to impress employers, create or improve a resume and more. The event is free and open to the public with no RSVP required.
I encourage kids, parents and caretakers to attend this great event. You may find a program that sparks a passion, or a first job that launches a rewarding career, and you will definitely leave with a greater appreciation for all our community has to offer our kids.
The next icons of Black history, and American history, are right here in our own community. Through events like the Youth Opportunities Fair, we are helping to shape them into the leaders they are meant to be.
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.