‘We have become our ancestor’s wildest dreams’ | Airport employees reflect on the legacy of Black trailblazers and recognize the work ahead for a more inclusive and equitable country.
From civil rights to music, literature, social change and mouth-watering cuisine, the impact of the Black community on the United States of America is immeasurable, influential and inspiring.
“The overall impact that Black people have on everyday things that people use that they don’t even know that were invented by us,” says Terrance Hardison, Custodian at William P. Hobby Airport. “Just the impact that we have on the world as a whole,” reminds Americans that Black history is our nation’s history.
“I’m proud to be an American, a Black American and an African America,” says Brenda Johnson with Landside Operations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. “There’s a richness to the American culture that wouldn’t exist without the contributions of Black people. History was years ago - but history was also yesterday. We as a community have to understand that.”
Understanding is one of the reasons why Black History Month matters.
“I would love to see people learn more about African American women throughout history. We have been the cornerstone, to not only our culture but too much of our nation’s history,” says Bridget Knighten, Administrative Assistant for Houston Airports.
In an excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Harvard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, we learn:
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied, and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African Americans' contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused on Americans of all colors about the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first Black History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued Black History Month proclamations.
“We have become our ancestor’s wildest dreams,” reflects Knighten. “To see that displayed every day, even on a world stage, is a reminder that we are great. We are influential. We are noteworthy. We are innovative. We are leaders. We are creators. We are captivating.”
Sharon Brown, Airport Operations Supervisor at Hobby Airport is moved by Black literature and Black writers. “It’s how we pass down our own history. Any moment that can highlight the Black experience for me is something that is important,” says Brown.
From museums to supporting Black-owned businesses, Houston offers a variety of ways for people to connect and better understand their Black neighbors. Reflecting on history, like the civil rights movement, helps too.
“It’s the period that is the continuous influence and inspiration of my life,” says Jarred Renfro, Senior Airport Services Representative at Hobby Airport. “The courage and resilience shown by leaders such as John Lewis, Barbara Jordan and Huey Newton gave us a blueprint on how we could continue to fight for change and equality.”