While we recognize Black History in February, Black history exceeds the 28 days (or 29 days in a leap year) dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of Black people.
Black history is American history and without it, we will never learn the full story.
Teniqua Broughton, executive director at the State of Black Arizona, put it succinctly:
“Black History Month means knowledge building, legacy creating and racial injustice healing. It’s about teaching the generations to come that we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.”
Recognizing the contributions made by Black Americans is vital to understanding the true history of our nation. Knowledge is power!
“That’s why, to me, Black History is more than a month. There are knowledge-based activities that should be done beyond the 28 days. There is information about Black history that exists every day that we should learn. It’s American history! So how can we transition this education beyond a month?” said Broughton.
“People have asked, why is there a Black chamber? A Hispanic chamber? I tell them, it is because when we have been in the same places and spaces, we have not been able to amplify our voice. Our voice may have been heard, but was it listened to? A lot of times it hasn’t,” she said. “So being able to have organizations such as State of Black Arizona in the community allows us to make sure that we are at the forefront of our own issues; as we know and live the experience every day.”
The State of Black Arizona was established in 2015 to collect and analyze data while understanding it is an important factor in creating an equitable future. The organization leads in the production, synthesis and socialization of actionable data and insights for all Arizonans with a primary focus on the Black community.
Across Arizona, communities of color are underrepresented in the public sphere and significantly disproportionately impacted by many conditions that result in inequitable outcomes in areas such as education, health and well-being, economic mobility and infrastructure. A concerted effort is needed to ensure these concerns are identified, validated and brought to the attention of the Black community in addition to civic and community leaders.
The State of Black Arizona also aims to provide a voice for greater interaction and leadership development among the Black community as well as sparking interest in the community and increasing efforts for change. They execute their work by releasing reports and publications addressing issues like business, education, civic participation, etc.
“This work is so important because in a place like Arizona, which has such a rich culture of BIPOC (black, ingenious and other people of color) there is no reason why there shouldn’t be an opportunity to make sure that all of those voices are amplified,” Broughton said.
Broughton desires for people to embrace the discomfort of the unknown in their hearts and minds and dive into curiosities of Black history, heritage and culture, which is a part of the story that is American history.
“Honor the cultural contributions of Black people. Do you apply any of your curiosities to watch movies and visit places you generally don’t? Those outside of your community?” Broughton said.
“Go to places and spaces where we celebrate Black/African American culture. Create an experience specifically at a museum, a theatre, at a popup space, where there are people who do not have the same cultural identity as you. Promote emerging or talented Black leaders. Those are some tactical things to do. Some strategic things could be acknowledging your own biases for how you show up, interact (even unintentionally) or avoid interactions with Black Arizonans. Do you speak up about injustices you see, hear or experience?
“Try to push your curiosities so you have a broader opportunity to honor and celebrate people in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re doing it just to support a transaction but you’re doing it to support the human being and growth of people who should have the same opportunities and privileges everybody in the United States of America,” she added.
One opportunity to consider is the African American Leadership Institute (AALI), which works to engage Black/African American professionals but is not limited to just African Americans. Anyone can use the Institute as a tool to educate, empower and take a deeper dive into the issues in our community and concerns in Arizona.
The AALI is run by The State of Black Arizona and is committed to the individual development of African American leaders in order to increase participation from the community in key civic, political and workforce-related leadership roles.
“If we all educate and acknowledge Black history all 12 months of the year, when the official Black History Month comes, it’s about highlighting new accomplishments, uplifting new voices and addressing new history. Arizona history, as our voice, is American history, and a journey towards achieving some level of equity,” she said
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