“Each February we honor the remarkable, but too-often unacknowledged achievements and contributions and the painful sacrifices that African-Americans have made to our nation's political, economic, social and cultural fabric.
It was fifty years ago today, for instance, that a pair of Memphis sanitation workers, seeking shelter from the rain in the back of a city garbage truck, perished when poorly-maintained equipment killed them. The deaths of Robert Walker and Echol Cole sparked a strike over unacceptable pay and working conditions that drew Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis in solidarity, and it was there where he was later tragically assassinated.
This history must be told. But we must highlight that there have been too many untold stories that revolve around the work, ingenuity, creativity and power of black women. For generations, African-American women have embodied strength and resilience. America has benefitted from the vision and leadership of Harriet Tubman, the courage of Rosa Parks, the tenacity of Fannie Lou Hammer, the wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou and the commitment of millions of African-American women who are making a way for their children and families each and every day.
In Florida, African-American women and educational pioneers such as Mary McLeod Bethune opened doors for future generations to make their historical mark. Dr. Bethune’s bravery and values must be honored. And led by Sen. Perry Thurston, I’m proud of the actions state lawmakers are taking to put a statue of her in place of a Confederate soldier now representing Florida in our nation’s Capitol.
We also salute modern day African-American women trailblazers who keep up the fight for justice in our own backyard. Activists such as Linda Anderson, who along with Benjamin Israel and others, led the effort to bring down Confederate street names in the city of Hollywood. These local trailblazers are constantly breaking down new barriers, such as Dania Beach Mayor Tamara James, who has taken her leadership skills from the courts of the WNBA to the corridors of City Hall. Across this nation, African-American women continue to make their mark by fighting back against attacks on the right to vote and access to quality health care, education and prosperity.
Time and again, African-American women have risen up, against tremendous odds, to ensure the best for their families, communities and our nation. Their stories of persistence and success are what we must share during Black History Month and throughout the year, because they embody America’s proud tradition of dissent and patriotism, and its finest pursuit of equality and justice for all.”