Black History Month at RISE: Celebrating our Experiences

DEIA

RISE is excited to celebrate Black History Month! Black History Month is a celebration of the many ways Black Americans have contributed to the success of our nation and our organization. It is a time to honor the contributions, resilience, and achievements of Black individuals throughout history and to celebrate the vibrant culture that continues to shape our world today. We invite you to celebrate Black History Month 2024 with us by reading this blog.

Black History Month banner

As we celebrate Black History Month at RISE we honor that Black culture is as diverse as it is vibrant, encompassing a rich tapestry of traditions, languages, music, art, and so much more. As we pay tribute to the diversity within Black culture we asked our RISE colleagues what they like most about life while Black. Here are some of their responses:

Annah Mercer (Data Analytics Specialist, pictured right): “What I like most about life while Black is how quickly we form communities, especially in spaces where we are not in the majority. The feeling of knowing that there is someone who is looking out for you and your well-being because they understand what it’s like to be in your position is unmatched. I like the feeling of having an extended family everywhere I go.” 

Phaedrel Bowman (Sr. Applied Data Strategist): “What I like most about life while Black is the uniqueness that comes with being Black. I have a unique lived experience, perspective, and future that is inseparably tied to my race.”

Daemond Benjamin (Program Operations Specialist, pictured left): “I LOVE being a BLACK MAN, FATHER, and HUSBAND. I LOVE BLACK WOMEN. I LOVE my BLACK WIFE and LOVE my BLACK FAMILY and all that we represent in the continuation of the long history of royalty and majesty. I LOVE the extraordinary resilience and perseverance that is synonymous with being Black. I LOVE the creativity and innovation that flows through my veins which allows me to be stylish and versatile. I LOVE the spectrum and shades of Brown we are so blessed to share with the Earth in connection with the Universe. I LOVE the way we communicate either verbally or nonverbally in order to keep the humanistic connection.”

Khanisha Moore (Senior On-Track Coach): “What I like most about life while Black is the sense of pride that comes from embracing my identity, acknowledging the struggles my ancestors endured, and being true to myself. Recently, on Martin Luther King Day, I had the privilege of being invited to perform at the MLK Service organized by the Interfaith Council of New Canaan. This was my second time participating in such an event, and I was filled with excitement. Accompanied by a group of fellow scholars who, like me, belong to minority communities, I was eager to show my support and listen to one of our ABC scholars deliver a speech.

During the preparations, one of the women who had invited me approached me and inquired if I planned on asking the audience to stand. She explained that last year, there were complaints about the duration of standing during me singing Lift Every Voice and Sing. This comment made my fellow scholars uncomfortable, and they expressed their readiness to leave. One of them even remarked, “Our ancestors endured much longer periods of standing while picking cotton, and yet people can’t stand to honor our Negro National Anthem?” In the video of the event, I was able to peacefully encourage people to stand, fulfilling my role and contributing to the cause. What I cherish most about being black is the ability to stand tall and proud, despite the pain and suffering endured by my ancestors. It is my responsibility to ensure that we, as a community, do not falter, not hesitate to raise my voice when necessary and stand up for the rights of our community. (You can hear me speaking at 12:55).”

Gaby

Gaby Guity (Postsecondary Success Coach, pictured right): “What I like most about life while Black is the quality of food and music.” 

Sandra Fryer (Executive Assistant): “What I like most about life while Black is that I like knowing that I come from strength; that perseverance and survival are part of my “DNA.” I also love the color of my skin, apart from and within the beautiful spectrum of blackness. And, I love that among black people, there is always a greeting – a look, a nod, or verbal recognition – that passes between black people as they pass on the street, in a hallway, or in a store – that says “I see you.” This friendly acceptance and acknowledgment is something I only ever experience between black people, and I value that sense of community belonging that I can find no matter where I am.”

Nichelle Woodson (Director, Freshman Success, pictured left): “What I like most about life while Black is our sense of community. No matter where we are, no matter if I know you personally or not, no matter if it is verbal or non-verbal, there is an acknowledgment of connection, and a recognition of, “I see you.” That acknowledgment and recognition allow me to exhale; it allows me to smile inside and out. The nod, the eye contact, the dap, the “hey sis,” the “wah gwan empress”, the “how yuh going darlin/doo doo/babes,” warms my soul. What I LOVE most about life while Black is our undeniable, unbreakable, and unapologetic CONNECTION!” 

Acknowledging Black History Month extends beyond reflection on the past; it necessitates proactive steps toward fostering a fairer and more equitable future. Throughout this month, make a commitment to amplifying Black voices, bolstering Black-owned enterprises, and advocating for substantive and systemic change within our communities. Let this be the beginning of a continuing process to celebrate the richness of Black culture and the extraordinary contributions it has made throughout time. Together, our collective actions hold the power to enact meaningful change — be that CHANGEMAKER! Thank you for reading. Happy Black History Month!

Read about the RISE Network’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.