Commentary: Race problems can’t deter Black History Month

James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Race problems can’t deter Black History Month
February 05
12:56 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

We live in the United States of America under a set of principles and guidelines set forth by our ancestors. Our Constitution guarantees us certain privileges and rights as citizens. Using the Constitution as a reference point, you would believe all citizens have certain protections under the law. I am one of those citizens with that belief.

However, why is it that men who look like me are marginalized each day? Why is it that black and brown people must do more and be more and still not feel welcomed in a country they helped to build? We now can sit in the front of the bus, but at times we are still made to feel uncomfortable. We can now go into any store, yet on many occasions we are watched from the time we enter.

Recently, I went into a store and after only a few steps, I was greeted by a nervous customer service representative. She asked if she could help me and my response was that I was only looking. As I began to look, the store clerk kept a watchful eye on me. Now this happened to me just a few weeks ago and not in the 1970s or 1980s. These types of incidents are debilitating and humiliating. Racism is unfortunately in the fabric of American history; however, America’s history is our history.

February is Black History Month. It is a time when we honor and celebrate those men and women on whose shoulders we stand. When we think of medical innovations, we think of Dr. Charles Drew. When we consider legal breakthroughs, we think of  Thurgood Marshall.

Men and women like Dr. King, Congressmen John Lewis and Adam Clayton Powell, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and Texas lawmaker Barbara Jordan made our lives better. And, of course, Reverends Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Joseph A. Lowery and Ralph David Abernathy are Civil Rights legends.

There isn’t enough space to pay tribute to the countless numbers of African Americans who blazed trails at the local, state and federal levels. We can’t let this month go unrecognized and uncelebrated.

Recently Gwen Ifill, longtime PBS anchor, had a U.S. postage stamp named after her. Please go out and purchase this stamp so there will be no excuse about continuing to produce it. Let your friends intentionally ask for this stamp.

Yet to come is the stamp honoring Harriett Tubman. Let us put pressure on our leaders to release this stamp. While the movie “Harriett” is now available on DVD, we should show it to our children and grandchildren so they can appreciate their roots.

When I was young, it was Black History Week. We found out information about Joseph Cinque, Crispus Attucks and Sojourner Truth. Cinque was a West African who led a revolt on the Spanish slave ship, the Armistad. Attucks was the first black man to die in the Revolutionary War. Truth was an abolitionist who gave a famous speech entitled, “Ain’t I A Woman?”

Black History Month has evolved over time to include many celebrations and events. Some have asked whether we still need this month. The resounding answer is yes! In fact, we need it more now in 2020 because the forces of evil are at our doorstep. We can’t let our history be lost or deemed not important. Black boys and girls need to be proud of our history and share it with others. For example, let us share a black history fact around the dinner table with our family members. Let them go to school sharing their history with their classmates and their teachers.

We can’t take the chance that traditional institutions will share our history. We must do it ourselves.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at

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