From Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO of The Corps Network
Photo credit: Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, by Richard L. Copley, 1968
Dear members and friends,
This week marks the start of Black History Month – a time to honor Black achievements and elevate underrecognized Black stories and voices from our past and present. It’s a reminder that now, and year-round, there is so much to celebrate and a great deal of history that many of us still must learn. As recent events have demonstrated yet again, it is critical that we learn from history.
My heart goes out to the friends and family of Tyre Nichols. My heart goes out to the Black citizens of Memphis and to all those who are grieving the senseless loss of yet another young Black man at the hands of the police. My heart goes out to the Asian American communities in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. There are many people across the country who are mourning right now. There are many who feel afraid and under attack. All of us should share in a collective feeling of anger, loss, frustration, and sadness. All of us have a responsibility to not look away from these events – we each have a role to play in helping prevent tragedies such as these.
As we know too well, these events are not isolated. With the context of our past, we can begin to work individually and collectively in undoing internalized racial oppression and understanding the role of systemic oppression. At The Corps Network, our staff – as well as Corps programs participating in our Moving Forward Initiative – have worked with The People’s Institute and Soul Focused Group to confront uncomfortable parts of our history. We have worked to learn how racism effects everyone and dehumanizes all of us. We have also learned how, as The People’s Institute states, racism was created, and it can be undone.
Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a theme for Black History Month and the full year. For 2023, the theme is Black Resistance, exploring how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms…” and worked to “…advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society.” This theme feels especially fitting now. We can and must resist the status quo when it comes to racism and gun violence and too many challenges that can be overcome, but have torn at our communities for generations.
The precursor to Black History Month was a week-long celebration first recognized nearly one hundred years ago. It was started by historian Carter G. Woodson and scheduled to coincide with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It was Woodson’s hope that one day there would be no need for a Black History Week or a Black History Month; people would realize the simple truth that Black history and the Black experience are American history. While this week is the start of Black History Month, we intend to follow Woodson’s vision and not confine our celebrations or our learning to just the month of February. Our resistance will not be confined either.
- 1619 Project
- The Who We Are Project
- ASALH (Association for the Study of African-American Life & History)
- “I Am Not Your Negro”
- The Zinn Education Project
- The Corps Network Moving Forward Initiative Resource Library