February is recognized as Black History Month in the United States.
No state in the Union can boast an African-American history more rich and influential than the state of Georgia.
For the past few years, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has highlighted the legacy of African-American figures who have shaped both state and national history.
Among those who have been spotlighted for their contributions to society are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator LeRoy Johnson, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Representative Richard A. Dent, Lucy Craft Laney and many more.
One of the state’s means of recognizing Black History Month has been to ask leaders who their influences in life have been.
Roberta Abdul-Salaam mentioned several influential African-American leaders including Earl T. Shinhoster, saying his example encouraged her to run for the House of Representatives.
However, her most poignant words were written to youths that she hoped would carry on that legacy. She said, “You are never too young to serve. Get involved now. Do the things that you can do. Find good mentors. Always remember that your circumstances (no matter what they are) do not define who you are. Learn to follow and don’t be afraid to lead” (sos.georgia.gov/black_history/survey.htm).
For obvious reasons, we especially like the words of former Representative Douglas Cox Dean, who said, “I started at an early age working for a newspaper (The Atlanta Inquirer) and my experience varied from circulation to production of the newspaper. Then I began to work in several black and white campaigns for public office. My mother gave me the best life-learning experience of public service. She worked in churches and in the community her whole life and when I look back, this is what really inspired me to get involved.”
He added, “My advice to young people is to work hard and learn what public service is all about. They should volunteer in someone’s campaign and make a commitment to make a difference in someone’s life, the community, and the world. They should also learn patience and tolerance and understand that public service requires a commitment to mankind.” (sos.georgia.gov/black_history/survey.htm).
This month-long recognition is the perfect opportunity to not only celebrate a rich history and important legacies, but to reinforce the values of faith community service and volunteerism that have being a vital part of the tapestry of Black History throughout our state and our nation.
— Editor Jim Zachary