What's all the confetti about?

A reflection celebrating Black History Month, written by Executive Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Ministry, Janai Downs.

It is customary that confetti be thrown in the air or released at many of life’s special occasions. We use it at weddings and birthday parties. We saw it fill the SoFi stadium when the Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI. Confetti actually symbolizes that life is both bitter and sweet. Well, this month, we have the honor of throwing our confetti in recognition of the Black experience.

I grew up in Gary, Indiana, in the 1990s, when the racial makeup of the city included around 84% Black people. I went to public schools and at these schools, it was a very regular part of the curriculum to study and celebrate Black culture and Black people’s contributions in America. I will never forget learning about the many inventions from Black people that we see and use every day: the almanac, the car phone, the mop, the guitar, the lawn mower, the fire extinguisher, the traffic light…you name it!

The recognition of Black inventions and accomplishments all started with a Black historian and scholar named Carter G. Woodson, who, in 1926, sought to broaden the nation’s consciousness by encouraging a weeklong celebration. He designated the second week of February. By the 1960s, Negro History Week, as it was called, lengthened to Black History Month. February became officially recognized during the country’s 1976 bicentennial under the leadership of former President Gerald R. Ford. He called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

In celebration of Black History Month, I’m supporting Black-Owned Businesses, giving high tips to Black Waiters, Waitresses, and the other Service Workers, reading articles and books that educate on the Black experience, supporting Black athletes at sports events and Black entertainers at concerts or movie theatres, viewing Black art, reflecting on quotes from Black people, and donating to causes that help to uplift the Black community. 

I take the time to acknowledge the past injustices and get hopeful for a positive future. It is true that Black-lived experiences have been both bitter and sweet. 

So I invite you, my VOA family, to grab your confetti! Let’s seize this opportunity to learn more, appreciate, and celebrate the contributions of Blacks in America.

Janai Downs - EVP, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Ministry

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