Guest essay: Celebrating our black heritage

By Assemblyman Brian Kolb
Each year, citizens take the month of February to honor the many achievements of African-Americans. I am grateful for the tremendous breakthroughs that African-American entrepreneurs, inventors and scholars have given the world. I would like to highlight the many African-American role models we have in education and industry.

Dr. King’s dream
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke as a civil rights leader and as a father in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. King said, “We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating ‘For Whites Only.’” He also said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In the year 2011, our nation firmly believes that slavery and segregation were wrong and immoral as they systematically victimized our own citizens and prevented all Americans from realizing their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Civil rights leaders showed tremendous personal and moral courage, helping America keep its “eye on the prize.” Despite our nation’s impressive progress, each of us has a responsibility to continue working towards fulfilling Dr. King’s dream of a nation that judges its citizens by the content of their character.

Shaping our world
African Americans have truly made the world we live in today, helping Americans live longer lives, take advantage of technology and explore beyond our own planet. The following are just a few of many, many examples:

Otis Boykin invented electronic control devices for IBM computers and the control unit for a pacemaker. George Carruthers, a member of the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, invented the far ultraviolet electrographic camera, used in the 1972 Apollo 16 mission. Engineer Lonnie G. Johnson, worked for NASA but is beloved by kids for one of his inventions: the “Super Soaker” water gun!

Local connections
Our greater community has a strong connection to two well-known African American leaders: Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Douglass, who is buried in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery, was the great reformer, writer, speaker and statesman who emerged as a leader of the abolitionist movement and is widely considered one of America’s foremost intellectuals. Harriet Tubman, who lived in Auburn, was a former slave who became an abolitionist of unimaginable courage and fortitude as one of the “conductors” of the Underground Railroad. Tubman made 13 trips to the South rescuing 70 slaves.

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