Striding

Jefa Series: Profiling Poderosa (Powerful) Latinas Pt.1

What is a Jefa?

The term Jefa refers to a “female boss or leader; a woman in charge.”  When thinking of the word Jefa I believe it means more. I believe the world has changed tremendously and definitions evolve over time. Jefa in todays world is to lead by transcending cultural expectations while being intentional about mentoring others, therefore making space for Latina’s everywhere to take on roles that weren’t created with us in mind. It’s in these spaces that we shine the brightest.

As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month, I started thinking of all the inspirational Latinas in my life who influence their community, shine in their career, and have conquered the obstacles that come with being Latina in a world that doesn’t always see our value. These brave chicas transcend theater, merge corporate and public sectors, and enhance the higher education experience as well as the judicial system. Their influence comes from a long line of brave mujeres who have left their country of origin to pave a new life in America. Their mothers were brave, and they have risen to the challenge to do the same.

How do I know this? These Jefas are beautiful and ponderosas (powerful). They have inspired a movement and they just so happen to be my family. I’m introducing real women, with real lives that are not always perfect. Women who were not buried but rather planted with deep roots. That’s why I admire them most of all. Their stories are of triumph in a world that sexualizes us rather than envisions us in the boardroom. These women have a story that’s rich, deep, and inspiring. Here is just a piece of their journey. For more about them, their movement, and vision I encourage you to follow their social media accounts. Shine bright ladies, shine bright! The following women exemplify the true Jefa spirit in more ways than one.

 Meet Clarybel

Clarybel Peguero is one of my favorite primas (cousin) and believe me I have many. Growing up we would spend summers together either in Washington Heights (NYC) or West Palm Beach FL. As an Afro Latina, Clarybel has always stood true to who she is. One thing I admire most about this Jefa is that she is unapologetically herself which allows her to shine in spaces where many of us would not.  Her strength has come from being raised by a single mother from the Dominican Republic who taught her to carve a life for herself in spaces where daughters of immigrants rarely enter. She did just that.  

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“A Jefa is not afraid of transformational change.”

In 2010, Clarybel joined the staff at Duke University where she now serves as the Senior Director for Volunteer Engagement.  In her role, she is responsible for overseeing the management of the “volunteer pipeline” which includes identifying, recruiting, and providing training and recognition of alumni volunteers. Clarybel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University and holds a Masters in Higher Education Administration from the University of South Carolina.  In 2014, she successfully defended her dissertation entitled “The re-conceptualization of historically white fraternities and sororities; the black students experience” earning her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Communications from Northeastern University.

When asked how she would define a Jefa, Clarybel shared that “about a year ago the President of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, was asked by alumni “What advice would you give a young person today?” and he answered with certainty and said , “it’s advice I would give anyone…. YOU MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO LIVE.” Those words have had a profound effect on me. To me, Jefas must have the courage to live.

“For the past 9 years, I have worked at Duke University for 8 out those years I served as the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.  Over a year ago, I accepted a new position at Duke and so today I am the Senior Director for Volunteer Engagement at the Duke Alumni Association.  I have been in the field of Higher Education for 20 plus years and have worked at some very prestigious institutions including American University, Johns Hopkins, Boston College, and UVA.  I have three degrees and I’m proud to say that in 2014, I successfully defended my dissertation where I critically examined racial issues within the Greek community. I am very proud of my professional accomplishments. However, being a true Jefa means knowing who you are and what you value.” She goes on to say ,”A Jefa is someone that believes in people and making sure everyone around her is achieving their best self possible. A jefa is not afriad of transformational change and is determined to be about self-betterment. A jefa knows to never dim her light. A true Jefa gives as much as she has taken from this world.”

Meet Helen  

Helen was one of my first childhood friends and is also my prima (cousin). We grew up in Washington Heights, NYC and over time she grew into a strong professional in the judicial arena. Helen earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Fordham University and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College.  Early in her career she was a clerk for superior court while also teaching undergrad students in areas like politcal science and criminal justice. Once her kiddos have “worked on developing their dreams” she hopes to pursue her PhD.

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“Jefa’s do what they are supposed to do.”

Helen is not only a Jefa in the courthouse, but she runs a tight ship at “Hacienda Ramos,” where she and her husband raise 3 kids all under the age of 5. Did I mention her girls are twins!! When asked what it means to be a Jefa Helen shared that “over the past year, people constantly say to me I don’t know how you do it all. This question often comes because I have 3 kids, work full-time and have a deployed husband. My answer is and will always be, I am doing what I am supposed to do. Jefa’s do what they are supposed to do. I am not doing anything out of this world. Am I tired? Yes, with 3 kids under five I live a tired life. However, I have healthy, happy children. In addition, I am the healthiest I have been in years.” Helen recently took charge of her weight dropping over 30lbs.   

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When asked about her marriage Helen shared that “although we don’t have a perfect marriage our marriage is perfect for us.” Running an active tribe of while having a deployed husband Helen says “I tackle what each day brings and leave what has passed is in the past. I deal with the tomorrows when they need to be dealt with.” To learn more about her eating plan, exercise routine and the funny things her little girls say you can find Helen on her Instagram Page.

Meet Laura   

Laura is my little sis who just so happens to be a super creative chica. She is an actor and singer, but her biggest role at the moment is that of being a new mother to the cutest baby boy. In addition, she recently took on the role a Breastfeeding Counselor in Bronx, NY. She graduated from the Two-Year Conservatory at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting (NY) and has been fulfilling her acting career on both coasts. Laura is currently represented by Plaza 7 Talent Agency and Lil Angels Unlimited. For more information on her latest acting work, visit www.imdb.me/lauraguzman.  

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“A Jefa empowers other women because she knows that there is power in numbers.”

Laura Guzman

As an Afro-Latina actress Laura has often experienced type cast roles that do not always represent who she is ethnically. Being Afro-Latina is something she takes pride in and she hopes that as the new wave of Hollywood actors, directors, and produces take over that there will be space to have difficult conversations of how Latinas are diverse in the roles they can take on and their apperance. She hopes to change the narrative of what “typical” Latina roles look like.

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As if she’s not busy enough, Laura recently launched her new YouTube Channel where she shares thoughts about her career as an actor, motherhood, curly hair care, and her afro Latina experience. When asked what it means to be a Jefa, Laura notes that “una Jefa is a woman who is unafraid to go after her dreams. A woman who walks in her truth. She empowers other women because she knows that there is power in numbers and we can all win. She knows there are enough seats at the table for us all. She doesn’t compete with anyone but herself.” You can also follow Laura on her Instagram Page.  

Meet Jenny

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Jefas remain grounded.

Jenny Pichardo

One of the neat things about this series is that I am being intentional about promoting the many wonderful women in my life like my sister Jenny. We grew up listening to hip hop and making up dance routines to free style music. She is a trendsetter and inspires women everywhere she goes. Jenny has also found a away to change the narrative for teens in the community we grew up in by connecting the public and private sector to provide them a stellar education.

Jenny joined Inwood Academy for Leadership from the International Leadership Charter High School (ILCHS). At ILCHS she secured a $17.5M municipal bond financing for a new facility, becoming the first NYC charter school to secure funding through Build NYC. Prior to joining the charter community, Jenny worked in the financial sector for over 14 years. Currently, Jenny is the COO/CFO at Inwood Academy for Leadership in New York where she successfully completed a second bond financing for her Charter school.

She began her Wall Street career in 1997, working at Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc., in the firm’s retail division. In 1999, she joined Siebert Capital Markets, working directly with the managing director and assisting the sales force and traders with equity, fixed income and mutual fund trades. From 2001 to 2009, she was Vice President—promoted from AVP in 2005—of the Institutional Equity Sales and Trading Division and developed and managed institutional relationships at Utendahl Capital Partners, LLC. Jenny graduated Magna Cum Laude and received her BA in Economics from Lehman College. She previously held FINRA Series 7, 24, 55, 63, 65 and NY State Insurance Licenses. Jenny is a Washington Heights native and is married to Zoilo Pichardo. She is the mother of two children, Ethan and Abigail.

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Breaking ground for new Charter School she helped secure funding for.

When asked what being a Jefa means to her Jenny shared the following truth: “Being a Jefa is modeling for my team and peers to serve others well.  Its to place the needs of the stakeholders first. For me, those stakeholders are the students we serve every day.  Its mentoring students in the neighborhood I grew up in. Often times those kids resemble my siblings and I. That is motivation enough to keep going.

Jefa’s remain grounded and teach students that they can do it too. My goal is to lead like Jesus. I am not Jesus in many ways, but I can lead with grace and with an expectation of excellence. Lastly, I hold my team to high standards regardless of the positions because we are all impacting our students lives.”  With Jenny at the Helm it’s no surprise that the vision for Inwood Academy for Leadership is “Empowering students in Inwood and Washington Heights to become agents for change through community-focused leadership, character development, and college preparedness.”

Striding: The Price of Rewriting Your Story

When we first moved to North Carolina many people had asked us the same question “Why in the world would you move from New York to North Carolina? Who does that?” My answer has always been the same… “I love moving.” However, the truth is more complex. Change was always hard for me. I loved for things to remain the same. Until I married a soldier that is. During the first five years of our marriage we moved 5 times to 5 different states.  Let that sink in. Can you imagine that?  Just when we were about to set “roots” it was time to pick up and start over. I became a pro at moving. It was incredibly hard and yet full of real life lessons like, my home is wherever my husband is. This idea may be counter culture but has been the guiding force of our 19-year marriage. And now, my home is where they, my husband and son, are.  Which is why moving without them has been difficult.

Rewriting Our Story

I love clean slates. Don’t you? Adena Friedman said it best: “Starting a new job can be nerve-racking, but it’s also exciting. You’re embarking on a new future, positioning yourself to write a fresh story.” Two weeks ago, I relocated for my career without my family. I’m in the middle of my very own fresh story and sometimes it’s hard.

 Our new home.

Our new home.

Starting a fresh new story is full of new adventures like learning a new organization, trying new foods and almost coming to tears when you realize that Marshall’s is literally minutes from your new place. I am in awe of the many different families that I see in my new community. Families that look like our little crew and many that don’t. Although our new space isn’t the same style as our home in NC, I am very excited to decorate and transform our new house into a home. Daily I am leaning into what life in Florida will be like for our family. It’s exciting, new, and inevitably comes with a price.

The Price

I told a friend just the other day that I feel like every comfort I have had has been stripped from me. Its cathartic and chaotic. Leaving me feeling exposed, naked and vulnerable. I didn’t anticipate feeling that way.  My connections, community and church feel as though they too have been stripped in a way. What I’m learning is that sometimes when God moves you into purpose you will be left feeling vulnerable. The same friend shared that when I am vulnerable “humility steps in and allows you to trust God with your whole life.” I have been in comfort for over 15 years. That comfort made me feel secure…safe. In the striding there are real losses. Walking into your purpose comes with a cost.  Here are the top 3 “costs” I have experienced so far:

1.Connections- This is the first time in my adult life that I have relocated to a new city without my husband. As our son completes his end of year exams we have been forced to separate for a month’s time. It doesn’t seem too long until you are living it. Living it is hard. I also am no longer able to do life with my closest friends.

Prior to this stride I had convinced myself that I didn’t need new friends. This relocation forces me to engage with new people and be intentional about forming new connections. That isn’t always easy.  Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist and author, says the best way to find friends is to follow a passion — “and whether it’s golf, tennis, bridge or art, participate in your chosen activity regularly. That allows you to have contact with the same people over and over, and familiarity breeds friendship.” My husband and I have already started planning how we will get involved in local art groups and possibly local activist organizations. I agree with Dr. Levine, familiarity does breed friendship. I know that I need to be patient with the process.

 Celebrating and doing life with these ladies was an honor. 

Celebrating and doing life with these ladies was an honor. 

2.Community- Over the last 15 years, I have lived in a small rural farming town. Traffic was great, community was close and if I’m being honest, life was peaceful. My piece Moving: Striding into Our Purpose should shed some light on why we made the decision to leave our comfort for the unknown. If I am being honest, relocation often is the opposite of peace. I do have peace in knowing that I have stepped out in purpose, however, finding a new doctor, getting to know new neighbors and connecting with our son’s new school doesn’t make me feel peaceful. I think what God is allowing me to see is that when it comes to community, my peace should be in knowing that he has a plan beyond what I can see. He knows who I need and when. While I wait I will be intentional about getting involved in my community even when it puts me out of my comfort zone. Living in a new neighborhood is something I am excited about experiencing. What I love about our new area is that it offers community meet ups and opportunities to connect.  I think this will help us establish a sense of community when our world just got very big.

3.Church- Over the past 9 years The Cove Church has shaped my family’s spiritual growth. Our son has grown into a great leader and we owe that in part to our church. In a piece I wrote for the Foster Moms Blog I share how Spirituality Raises World Changers. This piece was relatively easy to write because of The Cove’s impact on my own son’s life. Last weekend I got to visit The Cove one last time and I freaking loved it. Finding a church to replace it was not one of the top new things I was looking forward to. I am lucky that I can still watch the service online.  As I look forward to what another church can offer us, I am often asking myself which space is the best fit for us?Where will my son continue to grow into a world changer? Where will I find my new people? Knowing that Florida is where I am meant to be gives me comfort that the church I will belong to is here too. Finding a church can be stressful, however, the process of joining one can also be one of discovery and full of wonderful experiences.  I embrace that.

 Last weekend at The Cove we celebrated race day. He loved it!

Last weekend at The Cove we celebrated race day. He loved it!

Why Stride?

Sometimes you outgrow your space, community and life in an area. That is when God moves you somewhere new. Our stride to a new area was primarily because we were living in a place where we were no longer fulfilling our purpose. Leaving North Carolina for Florida during a season when we were comfortable in our routines, connections, community and church has its losses. The gains are becoming more evident every day that I am here.  We also know that being an example to our son during this time of transition is critical. I hope our son learns that change can be painful, but it can also bring beautiful new beginnings. Here’s to our new beautiful new beginnings.

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Striding: Moving Into Our Purpose

 Spring of 2017

Spring of 2017

We made a bold decision this month. A decision for our family. An important one for our son. A huge career shift for me. We are moving. It’s not been an easy one to make but definitely the right one. Striding lead us here. Striding means to walk with long decisive steps into a specified direction. That pretty much sums up our life over the last several years.

Over the last 15 years our NC life has been filled with love and laughter. We have built lasting friendships with great friends that have become family. Our son has bonded with other adopted children and through my work has met adult adoptee’s like Rhonda Roorda who have inspired him to share his own adoption story. We found a church that helped our son grow his faith. We have spent many years here with our family sharing traditions and raising our children together. We have built a life here and its been good.

 Our sweet home for the last 14 years. 

Our sweet home for the last 14 years. 

Striding for Our Son: Being multiracial in our area can be hard. As our son has grown older, we are finding that living in an area that is demographically lacking in diversity is not the best for him. When you have a family that looks the same you don’t have to constantly justify that you are a family. In my post “The New South” I talk a great deal about some of the tough moments we have experienced as a family here in North Carolina. Moments like my husband being confused as our son’s case worker rather than his daddy. Or times when my husband and I have had to navigate tough conversations with our son about being called the N-Word, police brutality, and why people stare at us. Over the last 2 years hubby and I have engaged in deep conversations about our desire for him to experience many different people from all around the world. That is why we have traveled to many countries with our little guy. We wanted him to know the world is big and full of different kinds of people. What we realized is that we want him to have the rich diversity we had growing up. For us to give him that meant we needed to relocate.

 Getting updated immunization for his new school in FL. 

Getting updated immunization for his new school in FL. 

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Striding for Our Marriage: I’d like to think that anyone who spends time with us knows that we love each other deeply. It’s hard when some in your community don’t embrace that. We knew when we got married we would face adversity. I would argue the many multiracial relationships do. Being a multiracial couple has its challenges. The part of the country you live in can influence that greatly. Many have made assumptions that we weren’t together. We are typically offered separate checks at dinner and struggle with the million stares we get when we are out around town. I’m not saying the relocation will fix the experiences we have had as a couple, but having less of it would be amazing. The bottom line is that we want to live in spaces that make us feel less like unicorns and more like a loving couple. We are also keenly aware that in order for the South to change, families like ours need to be visible within the community. Which is why we aren’t leaving the South.

Striding into Purpose: Since November of 2017, God has positioned very specific people to lead me in this new direction. It started with a 2-hour conversation with a mentor that lead to this site being created and has recently exploded into what I now know to be my purpose. So what is my purpose? It’s pretty simple really. My purpose is to use my experience, story, and platform to help other adoptive/ multiracial families thrive. I’m now striding in my purpose and that is why I know it is time to go. I’m just so excited that my purpose is also positioning me to move my family to an area with more diversity and opportunities. That it is taking us closer to my sister, her family, and a new church that I have admired for a while. I’m ready to lead in purpose.

My talented dear hubby has also stepped into his purpose. In the summer he will return to school to complete a degree in Environmental Science at Penn State. Relocating will give him access to opportunities to serve the community and planet. His passion in caring for the planet has influenced our son who believes daddy is a hero. His new position as a Campaign Manager has placed him in the center of a national debate on what our role should be in caring for the planet. Stay tuned and watch this guy change the world!

A Final Thought…

I have LOVED my job here in NC. Leading a great team that supports families in the post reunification and adoption realm has taught me so much about leading with grace and empowering others to lead. If I’m being honest, my purpose has always been in adoption. I was telling friends just the other day that my love for adoptive families came way before I was an adopted mom. The work came first then the baby. The exceptional training's I have received like The Adoption Competency Training and Learning to Lead have prepared me for my new role as Director of Adoption Services in Tampa Florida.  Opportunities to lead initiatives through the QIC-AG have put me in the same room with great influencers like Dr. Bruce Perry who recently interviewed with Oprah about the impact of childhood trauma on the brain. To say I have been granted amazing opportunities is not enough. What I know now is that I have been striding. Striding lead me here. God has lead me to take long decisive steps into a future that I could never have dreamt up for myself or for my family.

 

And suddenly you know...its time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings

My First Podcast Interview

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Mi gente!!!! I'm really excited to let you know that I was just interviewed on the Multiracial Family Man podcast to discuss my Afro-Latina experience, our multiracial life in the South, and our transracial adoption. It was great fun!!!! I think I over shared a bit, but I’m glad I did. A million thanks to Alex for being a wonderful host! 

You can find the podcast on any of the links below:

iTunes

Libsyn Podcast Network

Stitcher 

Excerpt from the Multiracial Family Man Site

"Ep. 158: Ligia Cushman is an Afro-Latina with Dominican roots who grew up in New York City.  She is married to a White man, and together they have a multiracial son, whom they adopted.  Ligia and her family live in the South, where she is an active advocate in the adoption space.
Listen as she talks to Alex about her Multiracial experience, her views on race and adoption, and how Multiracial experience differs from North to South."

For more on host, Alex Barnett, please check out his website: www.alexbarnettcomic.com or visit him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/alexbarnettcomic) or on Twitter at @barnettcomic

To subscribe to the Multiracial Family Man, please click here: MULTIRACIAL FAMILY MAN PODCAST

Striding: The 5 things I learned at Harvard

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I had the honor to be given a sponsorship by Harvard Latina's to attend their Latinas Unida LEAD Conference. It was not only my 1st time at the conference but my first time at Harvard and needless to say I was extremely excited!! As an added bonus one of my dearest amiga, Melissa, joined me on this amazing journey. This experience changed my life and influenced my career forever. 

I wanted to take some time to share the top five things I learned while at Harvard. 

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Eliana Murillo delivering the Keynote

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I was impressed by the large representation of Latina's and their supporters in the room. 

  1. Be Rooted in Gratitude - Eliana Murillo does amazing work in fostering diversity in communities and business as the founder of Multicultural Marketing at Google. She uses her platform to advocate for minorities in the work place. Her advice was simple, "Always be rooted in gratitude." She shared that many of us in the room were the daughters of immigrants. Our parents gave up everything to give us the life we have here in America. We need to be grateful for the life and opportunities we have been afforded. She talked about how having a spirit of gratitude has kept her humble and reminded her that being thankful meant that we had to also fulfill ourselves outside of work. Being grateful means that we remember what all the sacrifice and hard work is for. To feel fulfilled in and out of work. 

  2. Network Across Not Just Up - I had the honor to meet Roxanna Sarimento the COO of We All Grow Latina Network. She was probably my favorite speaker of the entire event. A Dominicana of humble upbringing, her advice was powerful. She mentioned that often times professional Latinas are eager to network up believing that this will move them up the corporate ladder missing the benefit of networking across. When you network across, says Roxanna, people are more willing to work with and for you. Her palabras inspired particularly when she noted that those 'across networks' usually share in your vision which can take you further than you imagined. 

  3. Be Ambicultural - Roxanna shared that a big part of being successful in today's world is being Ambicultural. The word ambicultural is defined as “the ability to functionally transit between Latino cultures and the American, giving them a unique position in the consumer landscape." Roxanna mentioned that if 85% of Latinos identify as Latino-American, that means we naturally have developed the skill of navigating 2 worlds. To navigate today's professional landscape modern Latinos need to utilize this skill to their advantage. 

  4. Instead of Getting Mad Get Strategic - Susana G. Baumann was exceptional as she shared her insight. She not only shared her thoughts on branding, event launching and having a strong Latina circle she also shared that making mistakes is necessary to being successful. Susanna believes that instead of getting mad when you make a mistake, you should get strategic. She discussed how making mistakes is what builds your grit. She challenged us to explore if we were resilient or fearful. Her best quote was "learn to manage your fear...life is not linear."

  5. Be Diverse with your Network - I told you Roxanna was my favorite because her words reached my soul! Roxanna emphasized the importance of building a strong network that was broad. In other words, we need people in our network that not only believe in our vision and  inspire our growth but also that don't  look like.  Its important that our network come from many different backgrounds. Roxanna shared that although there is value in having other Latina's in your network, branching out and making real life long connections with those that don't look like us will help us grow into the leaders we are meant to be. 

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Melissa and I ready to for a night of good food and networking.

It was an honor to be in a room of women such as these. Above all, the focus was on finding what we are passionate about, knowing that our worth is not determined by our work and that standing in our purpose is just as important and helping others. My greatest take away is that the more I learn and grow in my craft, the more I pave the way for the Latinas that come after me. 

 

Afro-Latina: Black History is American History

I recently had a mother write to me. Being an adoption professional, I thought it was about her struggles with adoption. That was simply not the case. She was a white mom from the Midwest who shared that at the age of 36 she was reading the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the first time. I literally had to read that line a few times. Let that soak in. For the first time.  She contacted me realizing that she had been deprived of our full American history growing up. She also had realized that Black history is American history. Her hope was that I somehow could help her discover what to learn so that she, in turn, could change the narrative for her children.   

 Peralta Project, NYC  

Peralta Project, NYC  

Black history points us to a truth we have often been denied in the classroom. I remember in school learning that the Black American narrative is a lineage of suffering, survival and sacrifice.  It is a story of how a people survived the Ku Klux Klan, domestic terror, and Jim Crow then and now. What I wasn’t taught is that in the midst of that suffering, we see a heritage of grit, resilience, and a purpose to reject the falsehood that Black Americans are insignificant to our American story. Isn’t that what makes the story of America a wonderful tale? We defied the odds by creating a nation whose people had grit, were resilient and had purpose.

The Black American influence on our history is important and is profoundly imprinted in the fabric of America. This cannot be denied.  This is why we cannot simply talk about American history and black history as if they are two separate entities. They are interwoven and forever bonded. But we haven’t gotten that right in our schools, in our homes, in our county. That is why we celebrate and honor Black History Month.  We are tired of our complete American history being tainted and glazed over for far too long. We must do better for ourselves and for children.

Our history is hard. It is often difficult to deny the appalling legacy of slavery and how white supremacy that has been embedded in life in the United States. We can’t deny that it is all around us to this day. All we need to do is turn on the television to see disproportionate mass incarcerations, police violence in Black communities, and even in our nation's acceptance of poverty and poor educational opportunities for families of color. 

Why is Black History Month not enough?

Black Americans have left an incredible imprint on literaturetheologymathematicsscienceart, and music, to name a few. To me, celebrating Black History Month is not just about pointing out the systemic woes of our Black brothers and sisters, it can also be about pride, compassion, and understanding the significance of difference. 

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President Obama

Taken by : Kehindle Wiley

It’s great that we celebrate Black History Month every year. However, like the mom who was brave enough to write me and ask for guidance, we need to be stretched in this country. We need to be brave and lean into our true narrative. Celebrating or acknowledging Black history during the shortest month of the year doesn’t let us off the hook. Anyone who turns on the news knows we have a long way to go. My hope is that we will be challenged to dig deeper and embrace a new narrative of inclusivity in the history we make each day. 

What can we do?

I have found that education and connection are the key to embracing the narrative about our complex American history. I spend a great deal of time writing and educating others about my own multicultural experience in America.  In a recent blog post entitled , The New South, I address challenges I have experienced while raising our multiracial family in the South. It’s time that we, Americans, embrace that just like my family our history is multiracial too.

There are tons of sites that are dedicated to America’s true history. I recently discovered a wonderful website known as  Teaching Tolerance. This is a good resource dedicated to “reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.” What I love about this site is that they offer a quarterly themed magazine with titles like, “The School to Prison Pipeline, “Once Upon a Time in America,” and The Dream Deferred, America After the King Years.” Having the tools to have hard conversations about our rich history is critical and Teaching Tolerance does a great job of providing resources and tools that can be used in the home and school.

Our history is hard, beautiful and tells the story of a resilient people who never gave up and continue to make history every single day. Michelle Obama said it best, “Though the month of February is set aside to celebrate Black history by remembering the lives of our forebearers who relentlessly sacrificed their lives as martyrs for liberation and the advancement of the Black community, we must not forget that every day in America, Black history is being made. African-Americans have struggled through decades of injustice, and still carry on in that legacy today; yet with persistent resolve and unwavering grit, we continue to shatter the glass ceiling. We must not be confined to a month in telling our stories, but our stories must be told each and every day. “

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Michelle Obama

Taken by Amy Sherald