Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in our communities. At Golden 1, we know that diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives makes California the strong, vibrant state it’s known to be. In that spirit, here are three ways we’re reflecting on Black history’s impact on American and world history, and how we can take that wisdom and apply it to our future.
1. Start in January and continue all year.
Black history is American history. Although the shortest month of the year isn't enough to fully integrate Black America's contribution into U.S. History, it's a place to start. From popular music to streetlights, potato chips to home security systems, Black people's impact and influence is amazing!
We study history to learn lessons from our past and carry strengths into the future. American history has been told primarily from the perspective of European Americans and their descendants. Beyond Black History Month, the call to integrate and appreciate the full contribution of Black Americans into American history remains.
"There would be no American history without Black people in it. The fabric of what American society is socially, economically, industrially ― it wouldn't be what it is without Black people." -Music journalist and podcast host Sidney Madden
Here are a few resources for learning more about Black history and history in the making include BlackPast.org, Because of Them We Can, Google Cultural Institute: Black History and Culture, and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s African American Archives.
2. Learn more about California’s Reparations Task Force.
As of 2019, Black Americans had about 1/6 the wealth of White Americans.
People forced from Africa to be enslaved in the Americas provided U.S. and European economies with hundreds of years of free, efficient labor, which was never repaid. Instead of repayment, most descendants of the Atlantic Slave Trade were locked out of opportunities to build wealth, that would eventually be granted to new immigrants to the United States. That original debt was compounded by oppressive practices such as redlining, sundown towns, racial covenants in California, and Jim Crow in the south.
The idea of reparations for past harm is not unprecedented. The United States paid reparations to Japanese American survivors of WWII internment, and Germany continues to pay reparations for the Holocaust. The Atlantic Slave Trade is unique in that there is, for the most part, broad acknowledgement of the harm of slavery, but repair and compensation has yet to be addressed.
The California Legislature has embarked on its own study to understand what reparations for Black Californians might look like in 2023; the New York Times called it, “the nation’s most ambitious effort so far to compensate for the economic legacy of slavery and racism.”
Find out more about California’s Reparations Task Force and its latest developments here.
3. Be of service.
“I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good.” -Maya Angelou
As with number one, this also works best when practiced all year. No matter where you call home, the more we are in service to one another, the healthier we all will be. The history of Black America includes service to a country that doesn’t always serve back, but as we move into our future, we can flip the script so Black Americans also feel the benefits of a shared spirit of service.
We hope you'll join us at Golden 1 in our efforts toward continuous improvement, understanding, and cooperation in California communities - Black History Month and beyond!
By Courtney McKinney, Social Impact Program Manager at Golden 1 Credit Union
Courtney leads the development and execution of Golden 1 Credit Union’s social impact initiatives, including community partnerships and investments and charitable giving efforts. She also works to help develop and implement equitable strategies and practices within the credit union, as well as employee engagement and activation.