Recognizing Black History Month at Breakthrough
Black History Month is a time when we celebrate the countless achievements of Black Americans who helped shape our nation. During this month, I often reflect on my own path, as well as the path of the Black leaders who paved the way and made success stories like mine possible.
Two exceptional Black Americans, in particular, are of special importance to me:
Shirley Chisholm and Larry Doby.
Shirley Chisholm & Larry Doby
In the past decade, we’ve had a Black President and Black Vice-President, so it’s easy to take for granted the presence of Black political leaders in higher office. But 50 years ago, it was groundbreaking. In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman in Congress. Four years later, she became the first woman and the first African American to seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
And then there’s Larry Doby. As a longtime Cleveland resident and sports fan, I am surprised by how many Guardians fans don’t realize his place in history. We’ve all heard of Jackie Robinson - number 42 - the man who broke MLB’s color barrier. Larry was the second Black player in MLB and the first Black player in the American League. The discrimination Doby faced in the American League parks parallels what Robinson experienced as a Dodger.
With spring training around the corner, there’s hope that the Guardians' 74-year World Series drought will end. The last time they won? 1948. The two stars of that team were Satchell Paige and…you guessed it…Larry Doby.
I never ran for office or played in the big leagues, but I have written my own history by being the first, or at least one of the few, on many occasions.
Early in My Career
I was one of the few black students who took advanced courses in my high school and one of the few Black engineering students as an undergraduate. Later, I landed a dream opportunity working for a global consulting firm with over 3,000 consultants, a mere 22 of whom were Black.
By succeeding at each step, I hope I was able to change the narrative and make space for those coming behind me, just like my heroes Chisholm and Doby did on a much grander scale.
Celebrating Black History at Breakthrough
At Breakthrough, we are intentional about sharing the heroism that encapsulates Black History. Additionally, we are unblinking and honest about recognizing the reality of our past and acknowledging where we as a country have fallen short of our ideals.
When our scholars learn about Black pioneers, inventors, artists, as well as everyday individuals who left their mark on history they are often motivated to go on and do great things. The stories of Black Americans’ riveting past motivate us to continue the work that we do to help our scholars write their own history.
While Black History Month is a celebration of our past, at Breakthrough, it’s a time to continue our reflection and learning. It’s also a time for us to further inspire our scholars to craft their own stories of perseverance and triumph. Finally, it’s a time for all of us to dig deep and examine our own power to write history within our families, schools, and communities.