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Black History Month

Unsung Heroes

Black History Month reminds us that every month we need to acknowledge and celebrate both the Black pioneers and unsung heroes who show resilience, courage and leadership in the face of incredible obstacles. At Thread Tank, we believe that we can all do extraordinary things as normal everyday people. We’re sharing the uplifting stories of three unsung heroes from the past and today, whose names you may not know. These dynamic people broke down barriers in order to keep democratic ideals alive and well so we can all enjoy them. We hope to inspire you to be curious, reach out and learn more about other Black designers, scholars, scientists, politicians, artists and activists who have played a major role in U.S. history to make our world a more equitable, compassionate and just place.

How We’re Celebrating and Honoring Black History Month

There are a variety of ways one can celebrate and support Black History Month. Here are a few things we’re doing:

1. Listening to The "Lift Every Voice" podcast that transforms sixteen powerful Black American Elders’ stories into an audio experience
2. Reading Amanda Gorman’s new book of poetry Call Us What We Carry
3. Shopping and supporting Sephora’s Black-Owned Brands, Sephora is one of the retailers to answer the call to take the 15% Pledge that dedicates at least 15% of shelf space to Black-Owned brands
4. Connecting the young learners in our life with Black History by checking out children’s book author Cheryl Willis Hudson’s suggestions at PBSKids.org
5. Taking a virtual tour through A People’s Journey, A Nation’s Story in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

Every year in February, Black History Month invites us to celebrate the history and accomplishments of African Americans. We’re joining The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in encouraging everyone to Connect360°, and join in the celebration of black history and culture all year round. You can find videos, articles and digital extras from across public television centered around the black experience. We’re all about the power of storytelling at Thread Tank and are honored to have the opportunity to experience and learn from these stories, and share them with friends and family. How will you celebrate Black History Month? We’d love to hear from you and be inspired by your choices and words.

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)

To most of us, the marches, boycotts, and freedom rides of the Civil Rights Movement bring to mind pioneers like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but rarely Bayard Rustin. We’re honored to share his legacy as an unsung hero and leader in social movements for civil rights, nonviolence, and gay rights. Raised by his Quaker grandmother to believe in the value of every human being, he began calling out injustice at an early age. As a young disciple of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent action as a means for social change, he became a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the most influential and effective organizers of the civil rights movement. As King’s right hand man, Rustin became his behind the scenes nonviolence mentor, ghostwriter, and strategist. In 1963, when civil rights elder statesman, A. Philip Randolph, needed an organizer to bring 250,000 people to the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, he knew only one man could accomplish it: Bayard Rustin. In a time with no internet, personal computers or cell phones, Rustin managed to smoothly orchestrate this massive and pivotal event using 3x5 cards, his vast network of contacts, and his finely honed organizational skills-in only two months! This historic event’s goal was to bring attention to the continuing challenges and inequalities faced by African Americans a century after emancipation. Many remember it for Martin Luther King Jr.’s now-iconic “I Have a Dream'' speech. Bayard Rustin was an openly gay man and despite it being used against him his entire life, he never backed down. On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously honored Rustin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, stating that Bayard was an openly gay African American who “stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.” Join us in celebrating his legacy and his tireless work for the civil and gay rights movement.   

“The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence…” or “People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.”

Ella Baker (1903-1986)

Ae’re honored to share the story of Ella Josephine Baker, the powerhouse community organizer, who worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes with many of the pioneers of the civil rights movement. Her journey to bring racial and economic justice to the black community was greatly influenced by the stories of resilience from her grandmother’s life as a slave. In 1930, after graduating from Shaw University as class valedictorian, Ms. Baker moved to New York City where she joined several women’s organizations and the Young Negroes Cooperative League, to develop black economic power through collective planning. From 1940 to 1946 she worked for the NAACP as a field secretary and then as director of branches. After moving to Atlanta she began working as the Executive Secretary for Martin Luther King Jr.’s new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), while also running her own voter registration campaign, the Crusade for Citizenship. She eventually became the Executive Director of SCLC but left the organization in 1960 when student protests and sit-ins spread across the South. Ms. Baker sensed this could be a pivotal grassroots moment. She recognized these young, emerging activists as a great resource to the civil rights movement. In April 1960, Ms. Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins. Rather than joining SCLC, she encouraged these young students to form their own organization. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) was born. She also rallied together hundreds of women to fill backpacks with sandwiches for these SNCC organizers, while they held down jobs and ran households. Ella Baker recognized these young student activists represented civil rights leadership in a new and unprecedented way. Today the legacy of Ella Baker lives on in the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights where the group organizes with Black, Brown, and low-income people to build power and prosperity in their communities. Ella Baker shows how to organize, empower and encourage the next generation with collaboration, support and ingenuity. We celebrate and honor all that Ella Baker has done for engaging students and communities of color to make positive change.

“We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.”

Amanda Gorman

Ae want to honor and celebrate the inspirational Amanda Gorman’s work as a poet and an activist in youth culture and social justice. In 2015, at the age of sixteen, she founded the initiative “One Pen One Page” in her hometown of Los Angeles. Her mission is to promote literacy for underserved kids through creative writing. In addition, she hopes to connect the project of democracy with reading and writing, leading to literacy as an instrument for social change. You may know the 23-year-old Amanda Gorman as the youngest presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history, when she fearlessly stood at the podium on Jan. 20, 2021 and read her poem “The Hill We Climb”. Her meteoric rise to fame followed. What you may not know is that she began writing as a toddler, is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University and in 2017 was appointed the very first National Youth Poet Laureate. Ms. Gorman recites this mantra before any performance: I am the daughter of Black writers. We’re descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains, and they changed the world. They call me. What does 2022 hold for Amanda Gorman? She released and performed her new poem in partnership with Instagram, reflecting on the complexities of 2021 while inspiring listeners, viewers and readers to help raise funds for the International Rescue Committee, to provide lifesaving programs to vulnerable communities worldwide. In this new poem she reminds us that “We steadily vow that no matter/How we are weighed down,/We must always pave a way forward.” She has written three books, including a new illustrated children's book Change Sings, inspiring the next generation to use their words and voices to make positive change in the world. For more inspiration from this accomplished storyteller please visit https://www.theamandagorman.com.

“Storytelling is the way that unarticulated memory becomes art, becomes artifact, becomes fact, becomes felt again, becomes free.”

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Article credit : Heidi Cohen ( https://heidicohen.com/use-blog-to-sell/ )

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