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Black History Month is ending, but we can still make history

Associated Press

As we wrap up Black History Month, dedicated to the accomplishments of Black Americans since the founding of the United States, I want to suggest that we focus on what Black Americans must do to achieve generational prosperity beyond just one month in a year.

We all should be concerned about the plight of many Black communities in the United States that are plagued by poverty, crime and dismal educational systems. These issues are not ordained, they are not inevitable, but they require significant transformation. We could accomplish this by emphasizing faith, family and education as key ingredients in developing individuals who are accomplished and ready to compete aggressively in the tough, complicated global economy.

We all know that young people who receive a decent education are less likely to engage in criminal behavior. We know that the family unit is an important framework for providing the necessary support and balance for children to thrive. These are the issues that we must address all the time.

It is not sufficient to invest in initiatives that do nothing to alleviate poverty or provide youths with a more productive way to channel their energy than to contribute to the disintegration of their communities through violence, crime and drug dealing. Young people need opportunities, better living conditions and incentives to succeed. 

Education is the way to begin. When a child is equipped with the skills and knowledge that a proper education provides, boundless opportunities begin to actualize. In time, he will want to do good for his community and the world. Our young people can learn to turn to words instead of violence, to pick up a book instead of a gun. Statistics show that many Black youths receive poor education, and this is the first issue we must address.

Most Black Americans desire positive, significant change. They can achieve economic empowerment. But some of them don’t know the options available to them because they have been exposed to terrible examples of what not to do to be successful. And, with such a strong focus on racial injustice in America today, we must consider injustice doesn’t just happen in one place, or among one group of people. If there is a systemic problem, eventually it will affect everyone.

Some people will disagree with me, and that’s fine. Accepting that problems exist does not necessarily mean we must always agree on how to solve them. Thinking otherwise frequently divides us, so let’s work together to change the future.

Black people should never think of themselves as victims; we are champions. “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life,” said Robert Smalls, a U.S. congressman from South Carolina, in 1895. To move the needle forward, we need fresh ideas and a new generation of thoughtful leaders. People should trust in themselves and understand that their circumstances do not determine their fate. 

We should also recognize the value of lifting everybody, rather than fighting against one another because of greed and selfishness. To truly empower others means that we must allow them to share in the successes. I am convinced that Black Americans today can live up to the standards set by so many icons who came before them, from the early abolitionists to those who continue to push for real enfranchisement today. The transformation begins with each of us, as individuals — regardless of skin color. As the adage goes, we are our brother’s keeper.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags Black Americans Black history month Crime Education Poverty racial justice

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