Black History is American History
Tameko Patterson, Deputy Director of New Product Launch, Sanofi Pasteur, shares the value of recognizing and celebrating Black history not only during a single month but every day of the year.I was in grade school in 1976 when President Ford urged all Americans to "recognize the important contribution made to our nation's life and culture by black citizens" and expanded Negro History Week (established by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926) to Black History Month. The celebrations that ensued in my home, school and community were remarkable and left indelible marks on my heart.
My father decided to take the new month-long celebration a step further and declared that “Black History is American History.” Furthermore, in our home we would not limit Black history “lessons” to a single month, but we would recognize Black history every day of the year. Each night at dinner, my family would have discussions about one or more African Americans who contributed to our nation’s history. And whenever I would dare complain, my mother would quote Maya Angelou stating, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”
As an adult, I’ve had similar discussions with my children around the dinner table, ensuring that they too know their history. Like me, they’ve gained a wealth of knowledge they would never have acquired had they only read the information offered in the textbooks at school.
My childhood experiences have led me to be more tolerant and respectful of people in general. I believe that we are all more alike than we are different. I’ve learned not to prejudge people, but instead to take the time to learn all I can about the various races, ethnicities and cultures in my community and workplace.
I’m proud to work for a company that acknowledges the diversity of its employees and understands the value of taking time out to recognize and celebrate Black History Month.