What a Difference a Year Makes!
photo: A painting dedicated to the founders of Black History Month, the Black United Students at Kent State University, by Ernie Pryor
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team
Black History Month 2021: Celebration, Commemoration, Mourning, Action
Black History Month 2021 looks very different from last year’s celebration and commemoration of Black History. COVID-19 was just starting to emerge as a pandemic that would change the world.
Hank Aaron, who faced death threats when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, was enjoying his retirement as a Major League Baseball legend, and acclaimed actress Cicely Tyson made her last movie and TV appearances at age 95. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and hundreds more African Americans now dead from actions of police in 2020 were still alive. Rep. John Lewis was still getting into “good trouble” on Capitol Hill and beyond. Progressives Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush were trying to unseat longtime centrist Democratic incumbents in the US House. Rev. Raphael Warnock was one of 21 candidates on the ballot for Georgia’s special Senate election, and Sen. Kamala Harris was one of two dozen Democratic candidates vying for the presidential nomination. Donald Trump looked to be a formidable candidate for re-election, doubling down on racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic tropes for his base.
Today, Hank Aaron and Cicely Tyson are the most recent Black cultural icons lost in the past year. The brutal murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the world and brought human rights to the forefront of US political discourse. Rep. John Lewis’ spirit lives on in a renewed push to pass voting rights legislation in Congress. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, and Raphael Warnock are all members of Congress. Cori Bush is the first African American woman to serve in the House from Missouri, and Rev. Warnock is the first Black Senator from Georgia. Kamala Harris is now the first female, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President of the United States.
The virulent pandemic, ignored by the Trump administration, tore through Black communities at much higher rates than white communities and heightened awareness of racial disparity, inequity, and discrimination. Outraged Americans of all backgrounds joined forces to deny Donald Trump a second term as President.
Now we stand at a crossroads—a combination of hope for future gains and grief for recent losses, and of determined activism facing entrenched bigotry in the halls of Congress and around the country.
PDA takes these challenges one day at a time. We are working non-stop to get progressive activist Nina Turner elected to Congress—volunteer here. We are helping Rep. Cori Bush hold members of Congress who aided and abetted the white supremacist-backed insurrection on January 6 accountable. Join our Congressional Office Liaison Program to advocate for voting rights, criminal justice reform, and racial equity issues. Donate to help PDA keep up the fight for racial justice this month and every month of the year.