Black History Month: A Celebration of American History
Last updated: February 14, 2022, at 12:03 p.m. PT
Originally published: January 31, 2022, at 6:12 p.m. PT
By: Loria Yeadon
President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle
February is Black History Month, a time when we honor and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Black people who have made significant contributions to our country’s growth and progress, and we strengthen our commitment to the unfinished work of advancing equity and justice for all.
Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, and this week has grown into a month of inspiration and recognition of Black trailblazers who helped shape our collective American story.
Black History Month and Woodson, a historian and professor, also have a special connection to Y history. At the Wabash Y in Chicago, Woodson first conceived the idea of a week to recognize the history and contributions of Black people to the nation. This act was especially brave during an era where Black accomplishments and contributions were often never documented, erased, overlooked or rewritten to de-emphasize their work and value.
Woodson held small group meetings at the Y to develop the idea and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This Association led to the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which was renamed Negro Achievement Week, and later Negro History Week, before eventually becoming Black History Month.
We invite you to join the celebration and learn more about Black history with us.
This month is also an invitation to engage with community and advance equity and justice for all. One of our core focus areas at the Y is to serve youth, especially those who are furthest from opportunity, by removing systemic barriers and creating accessible systems of support and belonging for all.
The Y is addressing the important work of Black youth empowerment and creating equity in swimming. Nationally, 70 percent of Black people do not know how to swim, according to a University of Memphis study. Rooted in systemic inequality, and created and maintained through discriminatory laws, policies, and social practices, Black people and other people of color were denied access to swimming pools, and this perpetuated the false stereotype that “Black people can’t swim.”
Drowning is a leading cause of preventable death. Every day in the United States, about 10 people drown, two of whom are children younger than 15-years-old. For Black children 5-19-years-old, the risk of drowning is five times higher than White children. Learning to swim saves lives and creating equity around swim safety is a public health issue we must address for all.
Please join us to learn more about how you can support youth and get involved and engaged with community. We’ll be honoring Black History Month with four events to gather, discuss, and enlighten one another in learning and conversation.
- February 8, two free virtual sessions to choose from: 5:30-6:00pm or 6:15-6:45pm: Get a taste of Southern style food with Kimberli Johnson from Kim’s Savory Cuisines. Learn, explore, and taste select African American foods, including collard greens, chicken and cornbread, and discover how food is the gateway into larger conversations about individual and group survival. RSVP today
- February 15, 5:30-6:30 pm: Join the Y online and celebrity hair stylist, Jamie Elmore, as we discuss diversity in swim, culture, history, and haircare for Black swimmers. RSVP today
- February 22, 5-6 pm: A virtual Y Healing space for those we have lost to drowning. Join us for an evening of openness and seeking solutions. RSVP today
- February 28, 5:30-6:30 pm: Our next Y Community Conversations installment: “In the Spirit of Ancestor Ella Baker” is centered on Black youth empowerment. Brought to us in partnership with community sponsors, this panel discussion reflects upon the words of the civil and human rights leader, as we move as a collective from permission to freedom. RSVP today.
We hope that you will share these events with your family, friends, and networks and join the celebration and work to advance equity and justice for all.
In community and gratitude,
President & CEO YMCA of Greater Seattle
Loria Yeadon is President and CEO at YMCA of Greater Seattle. She is an accomplished non-profit and corporate leader, engineer, and patent attorney, with over 35 years of demonstrated commitment to serving community. Yeadon is the first woman, as well as the first person of color, to serve as CEO in the 146-year history of the YMCA of Greater Seattle.