Skip to content

We celebrate Black history, and acknowledge the pain of persistent inequity

Each year, Black History Month is a joyful opportunity to explore and reflect on the rich history of Black life and culture and the many accomplishments and contributions of Black people. Part of what makes Black history such a compelling lens is the bravery and tenacity with which Black Americans have persevered to overcome staggering obstacles and oppression that were — and are — built into our nation’s systems and structures from its founding and continue to be a source of systemic inequity today. This is also a time to come together as a community of educators, learners and contributors to the public good to embrace our collective responsibility for working to eradicate the countless ways that these systemic inequities manifest, from the violence against Black people by law enforcement to the substandard schools, housing, healthcare and economic opportunity that disproportionately affect Black people and communities.

Black History Month is certainly a time to celebrate Black progress and achievement, and I’m honored to work with so many extraordinary people at the UW who are advancing this vital work across every unit. Check out the UW Combined Fund Drive’s guidance on how to support Black-owned businesses, and get to know the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity’s work to ensure that Black and other underrepresented students can thrive throughout their Husky Experience. Through the Black Opportunity Fund on all three campuses, created to provide resources to projects led by and for the Black community, and in groundbreaking research on race and equity happening across the University, we are committed to building a more equitable, just and anti-racist world. We will never stop working to realize that vision.

The poet Lucille Clifton was born in the 1930s to working class parents who had little formal education, but they instilled in her a love of learning and literature, and a deep sense of her ancestors’ strength and survival through enslavement. Clifton went on to graduate from Howard University and become a renowned poet and scholar. In her poem “won’t you celebrate with me,” she wrote, “here on this bridge between / starshine and clay, / my one hand holding tight / my other hand; come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed.” To me, Clifton’s words embody the defiance and resilience that we honor when we celebrate Black history. I hope you will celebrate Black history with me, this month and every month and commit to building a world in which Black people and communities can thrive.