Assemblyman Stirpe: National African American History Month Honors Triumphs

February 9, 2018

February is National African American History Month. It gives us all an opportunity to acknowledge the oppression and injustice that African-Americans have faced since our nationís founding as well as the tenacity it took to overcome and shape our history. As we celebrate the many remarkable achievements of black New Yorkers, itís important we recommit to the fight for racial justice and tolerance and tackle the barriers that persist.

Our state has been home to many pivotal change-makers, including none other than Harriet Tubman. After fleeing slavery, Tubman became a prominent leader of the Underground Railroad, making New York an important stop on the journey for many escaped slaves. In the span of one decade, Tubman guided over 300 slaves to freedom. The Harriet Tubman Home, built on the site of her former home in Auburn, invites visitors to come and learn more about Tubmanís remarkable achievements.1

This month, we also remember another trailblazing African-American woman from New York, Shirley Chisolm. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Chisolm served in the state Assembly from 1964 to 1968 before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the first African-American congresswoman. She won re-election six times, and in 1972, she made history again when she ran for president as the first African-American and first female major-party candidate in history. Though unsuccessful, Chisolm is credited with helping pave the way for President Obamaís election in 2008.

While this month celebrates the ways in which our history has been shaped by African-American trailblazers, we must also recognize that the injustices of the past continue to impact America of today. The high rates of incarceration and unemployment among African-American men reflect generations of poverty, hardship and institutional racism.2,3 , Weíve seen an alarming rise in hate speech and crime.

Earlier this year, in the Assembly, we passed a resolution recognizing Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, a man of strong will whose lifeís mission centered on lifting African-Americans from financial oppression and was a fundamental strategist for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in our nation. Rather than regress, we must keep working towards greater equality and opportunity.

We must continue to stand up to racial hatred and violence and knock down the barriers to equality. Itís imperative that we keep building on the work of Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Wyatt Tee Walker.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, my door is always open. Please contact me at 315-452-1115 or