Weekly Columns

February is dedicated to celebrating the contributions and efforts of African Americans to our nation’s heritage and culture. We commemorate the heroes of the African American community who fought injustice and triumphed in the face of adversity. We honor the sacrifices of the brave men and women who persevered through challenges and celebrate those who championed equality for all Americans. 

Established in 1976, National African American History Month is a time to reflect on the people who confronted prejudice and ultimately broke down social barriers. This is a special time of the year to reflect on the ways the African American community contributes to our country. 

African Americans from all walks of life have played an integral role in shaping our nation’s history. A Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall will highlight and honor the influences of the African American community. The National Museum of African American History & Culture is expected to open in 2015. 

This comes on the heels of the well-deserved recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall. The newest addition is a memorial to Dr. King that sits at 1964 Independence Avenue, a reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which Dr. King was influential in helping accomplish. This monument overlooks the Tidal Basin and is in good company, surrounded by memorials to some of our nation’s most influential leaders. Creating a visual ‘line of leadership,’ the monument is situated on a straight line between the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the Jefferson Memorial.

Dr. King had a profound impact on my generation. Many people remember reading about his efforts to lead the fight for equality in the newspapers, listening to his impassioned speeches on the radio and watching his nonviolent protests unfold on the nightly news. The images of this era are forever etched in our memories. There are only a few individuals in our nation’s history that everyone agrees made this country a better place. Dr. King was one of them.

We are thankful for Dr. King’s vision and his efforts to build the dream. We are grateful for the Arkansans who were part of the generations that helped lay the foundation for equality. From Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, one of the most well-respected lawmen of all time who worked under Judge Isaac C. Parker to the Little Rock Nine who became the faces of the struggle against segregation, we recognize their accomplishments and lasting influence. What they achieved was not easy, and we are proud of their legacy and the doors they opened by advancing equal rights for all people. 

While much progress has been achieved in the pursuit of equality, we know that obstacles remain. We need to continue building on the actions of the generations who fought to get us here today. We can reach equality but it remains the task of all Americans.