Post submitted by Donna Payne, HRC Associate Director of Field Outreach

As we begin Black History Month, I’m smiling as never before in all of my years at the Human Rights Campaign.  Many of us watched the Presidential Inauguration this second time with a sense of pride.  We had a lot to be grateful for this time.  Our country had re-elected a President who represented the majority of us.

For me, he represents the intersections of my life.  He was inaugurated on Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday.  He is the first African-American President of the U.S., and he is the first to include LGBT equality in the same breath as all of our historical social movements.  It also brought to my attention how important it is to acknowledge when change has occurred. 

Acknowledgement doesn’t have to be a Broadway production.  It can simply be about us speaking the name of an African-American leader to others or telling the story of an African-American leader so the words live on with others.   That is what Black History month means to me – taking the time to speak of the accomplishments so we never forget the road we have travelled.  Now that road is intermingled for me.  Change has occurred.  I will always stand on the shoulders of those that paved a way, but I am also creating history as a proud African American lesbian right now.  

This month, we will share stories of others who want to reflect on Black History Month.  Acknowledging the contributions of African Americans sends the message that we are all working on justice and equality together.  It gives a level of respect for the sacrifices that so many made so we could have freedom in our country.  We hope that you will stop and reflect on the accomplishments of African Americans this month by telling their stories or saying the names of leaders in your community.  This way, we all can take the time to honor the people who paved a way for all of us. 

Throughout the month the HRC blog will feature voices of other African-American LGBT leaders speaking about what Black History Month means to them this year. 

As we begin our celebration, I am reminded of lyrics from "The African-American National Anthem."  It was written over 100 years ago. However, after witnessing our country’s growth towards justice and equality this year, its words still resonate:

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.


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