We asked some of our community’s most influential black leaders to share their perspective on Black History Month, its importance and how we as a community can continue to respect and observe the significance of the month throughout the year and not just in February.
Ed Narain, Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, AT&T
“Black history is American history and it is important that we take time to remember the significant contributions African Americans have made to help shape our country and the world.
This rich history is often ignored by traditional history books and leaves most people largely unaware of the key accomplishments Black people have made in every discipline and profession.
Locally, we have a rich history of ground breakers that helped pave the way for the unique community we see today. In February and anytime during the year, I would encourage everyone to visit take the Central Avenue Black History Tour, visit Perry Harvey Park, the Carter G. Woodson Museum (St. Pete), and the Robert Saunders and C. Blythe Andrew’s libraries to learn more.
A true understanding of our past is the key to helping shape a better future.”
Bemetra Simmons, Chief Strategy and Operations Officer, United Way Suncoast
“The remarkable contributions of African Americans is deeply woven into American history. Black History Month allows us to highlight these unsung heroes.”
Brian Butler, President & CEO, Vistra Communications
“Black History Month provides an opportunity for ALL AMERICANS to learn, reflect and honor the contributions by African Americans to our great nation.”
Ashley Butler, President, Ice Cold Air
“I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bayard Rustin. I know that my success is built on a legacy of Black brilliance, and I love Black History Month because it is a shared opportunity to celebrate that Black brilliance. We’re able to collectively reflect on how Black people have and continue to contribute to American history and American culture. Making space to honor the Black experience and actively empowering the Black community, not just in February but all year, expands our understanding of greatness and challenges our ideas of what is possible.”
Ben Walker, Owner, Buyer’s Point
“Black History Month was originally created to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and their central role in US History. Not only is it important to recognize the well-known historical figures but it is equally as important to celebrate the lesser-known figures such as:
• Charles Drew (Father of Blood Banking)
• Henrietta Lacks (First Immortalized Human Cell Line)
• Tuskegee Institute (Contributions to the Polio Vaccine)
• Ida B. Wells (Investigative Journalism & Women’s Suffrage)
• Bessie Coleman (First Black Female Pilot)
• Matthew Henson (Explorer & First to Step Foot on the North Pole)
• Lewis Latimer (Carbon Filament for the Incandescent Lightbulb)
• Robert Smalls (Fascinating Naval Pilot & Congressman)”
Dr. Sandra E. Braham, President and Chief Executive Officer, Gulf Coast JFCS
“Black history is American history. As our nation matures (relative to the ages of other developed nations), we must learn about and embrace all cultures that have significantly contributed to the building of our country. African Americans continue to make history, building America across all sectors of business and the economy. I am proud to support the work of the Tampa Bay Chamber as we honor Black history and Black business leaders, year-round.”
Lori Baggett, Attorney at Law, Carlton Fields
“Black history is American history. We should learn all of our history – even parts that go unrecognized or that we are not proud of – otherwise we are doomed to repeat it. For me, Black History Month has always represented a time of focused reflection and pride in all the contributions that Black people have made to society.”
Yvette Segura, Regional Vice President, USAA
“While Black History is observed during the month of February, we believe it should be celebrated year round. The only way for us to continue to grow and become a better society is for us to recognize and appreciate our differences. We celebrate and honor the notable achievements of African-Americans for all that they have contributed in making our society better.”
Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO, Tampa Bay Chamber
“Black History Month gives us the opportunity to truly explore the outstanding contributions made by fellow Americans that have been overlooked for far too long. The rich tapestry of America is strongest when the threads are inclusive of all those who live in our country. I hope that everyone will not only take the time to learn more about the importance of the holiday, but also make it a personal mission to celebrate and support diverse leaders in our communities throughout the year and long after Black History Month is over.”