Happy Black History Month! African Americans have celebrated traditionally and proudly the life, legacy, and achievements of our Black Heritage in the month of February since 1976. Yet, we can all agree that it's every day of our lives to commemorate the courageous trailblazers who tirelessly paved the way for a better and equitable world for all.
The earlier U.S. women's rights movement often overlooked the contributions of African American women. Nevertheless, they played a pivotal role in helping to confront the fight for equal rights across all spectrums in the nation. Prior to the women’s rights movement, one of our historical icons, Harriet Tubman affirmed: "you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." As such, the authentic deep passion of African American women gave voice for change in the past leading to the present.
In this month's issue, TEMPO Madison is proud to highlight the legendary Black women in our community, who shattered glass ceilings and continued to be visionary in a world that often thinks otherwise. We are shining a long-overdue spotlight on the African American women who became first in the Madison region. Their work and contributions span across education, business, health care, government/politics, non-profits, arts, retail, media, entrepreneurship, and beyond. Please note that the following list is not complete, but a great start to illustrating where we have been and where we are today.
1952: Vel Philips was the first Black woman to earn her law degree from the UW-Madison Law School, first to win a seat on Milwaukee City Council, first to become a judge, and WI Secretary of State.
And leading up to our reflections of Black History Month 2021, we celebrate Kamala D. Harris, our first Black and Asian American woman elected to the U.S. vice presidency. Another historical first – Amanda Gorman, the youngest Black woman to serve as the 2021 Inaugural Poet, mesmerized the nation with her poignant address – “The Hill We Climb.”
As noted above, the first Black female leaders are an inspiration no matter our ethnicity or heritage. They opened doors to opportunities that would still be closed if it were not for their passion and fervor to reach for the stars. As a Black leader in the Madison community, it’s an honor to beam the light on extraordinary women who serve as an example for each of us to make a difference throughout the month of February and always.
Leslie Petty, President