Why Black History Month Is Still Relevant Today
By Leroy Williams, Senior Vice President of Product Management and Business Operations, and Executive Sponsor of the Galaxy of Black Professionals ERG at Samsung Electronics America
Repeatedly, sustainably, and resiliently. Those words have consistently resonated with me throughout my career and my life in general. Through my experience, I have found these words to ring especially true for me, as a Black Professional and as one of relatively few Black senior executives in the industry.
For people in historically underrepresented communities, history has shown us that our path to success tends to be more arduous and the fall from grace is more precipitous. Further, the opportunity to re-ascend is typically, and statistically, more difficult. I’ve never viewed these facts as an excuse or an absolute inhibitor, although they have presented occasional “degrees of difficulty” along the way. I instead use these facts as a constant motivator to never rest upon my prior accomplishments and be repeatedly, sustainably, and resiliently great in order to achieve my ambitions.
I imagine that many Black Professionals share similar experiences, and Black History Month provides all of us with the opportunity to reinforce an understanding and perspective of where we have been and the work that is still left for all of us to do.
Black History Month elevates the occasion to celebrate Black American heritage and the extraordinary societal contributions by so many individuals over the course of American and global history. At the same time, Black History Month matters because the knowledge that we gain from our past provides context for our present and clarity for our future. Accepting the baton of history and carrying it forward to continued progress means committing ourselves to advancing inclusion and equity for all Americans.
Rather than run from our past or attempt to displace it, it is important for us to acknowledge, learn from, and place into proper context the origins of the inequalities of historical access to our fundamental institutions of education, health care, housing, professional advancement, and financial stability. This imperative is not limited to Black Americans, but a call to all of us as Americans to further the legacy of generational growth inherited and carried forward by our future generations.
I am encouraged by my sense that Millennials and Gen Zers inherently understand this. After all, they are our first “digital native” generations with access to information from a wide variety of perspectives. They’ve demonstrated a passionate desire to pursue insights readily available at their fingertips and are not limited by informational constraints of the past.
At a personal level, I have been blessed to benefit from exposure to many cross-generational connections. As a result, my worldview has been shaped by both my experience as a Black American male and what I have the capacity to be based upon my own intrinsic drivers, aptitudes, and efforts. I am fortunate to have had strong influences in my life, starting with my parents, as well as life-long friends, mentors, and other inspiring individuals from all walks of life that have provided me with guidance and encouragement toward my goals and aspirations. Men like my father represent an ideal for me to continue to pursue, with the humble recognition that I will never fully capture that ideal. I’m good with that. It’s what gives me perpetual hope and serves as motivation for me to always lean forward.
To me, Black History Month serves as both an enriching reminder of the complex nature of the disappointing events of our past, as well as, a just celebration of American achievement, excellence, and the opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead.
It’s OUR shared history. Let’s use it to inform the creation of our path to future greatness.