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Posted on February 26th in REACH Blog

The Legacy of Black Leadership and Black Excellence

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Catreese Qualls, International Vice President for Division III.

“Today I stand on the backs of the giants who came before me. I’m compelled by the blood, sweat, tears, and rich history of those who laid the foundation before me.”

I said these words in a recent publication of the Schoolcraft Connection, and now, Black History month brings them once more to my mind.

Black leaders, both contemporary and historical, have fought against the exclusion and oppression African Americans experience and have faced. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched so that Black leaders today could run in the direction of their dreams. Dr. King, in his 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” These words ring true even today, which is why I fight to protect children who look like me: children who face unequal education, housing inequities, food and financial insecurities, and low socioeconomic status—all impacted by the color of their skin.

The presence of Black leadership within an organization brings with it a broad scope of knowledge and a vital perspective across many areas, including addressing issues, opportunities, or challenges not seen or understood by those who have not lived the Black experience. Black leaders often have a passion to encourage, inspire, and evoke change in a system created on the backs of oppressed communities. As a minority and nontraditional student, mother, and proud servant leader, I advocate for those who are oppressed, and I have seen firsthand what happens when diversity is a cornerstone for an organization.

When Black leadership is included in an organization, it matters. It matters because the people in those leadership roles bring with them a tumultuous history of courage, tenacity, resilience, fortitude, and faith in the midst of adversity. In a time where communities of color face the denial of equal and adequate access to fair and impartial opportunities, Black leadership not only provides a diverse perspective but also inspires and emboldens people of color who feel downtrodden to soar into the realm of Black Excellence.

There is no time like the present, and there has never been a better time to embrace the true meaning of diversity. We must face the silent message which speaks ever so loudly when we exclude African Americans from leadership. We celebrate Black leadership today in a clear defiance of the illogical discrimination faced by African Americans daily, and in support of those children who will one day become Black Leaders themselves.