Black History Month offers us a time to reflect on the many contributions African-Americans have made to this country and the world. Growing up as the children of hard-working parents in a melting pot community, the school my brother and I went to paused on a variety of special commemorative days to celebrate the rich diversity of all of our cultures and ethnicities. These early experiences and lessons from school have left an indelible imprint on my life, and what I recognize today is that these non-negotiable family values are distinctly connected to the work and service of many historical figures in black history whom we celebrate.
As someone whose early career was as a civil rights attorney and who now leads a global organization focused on volunteering and service, spending the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Atlanta is a full circle experience. In the span of five days, we joined this community to honor civil rights leaders; break bread together while discussing economic justice; roll up our sleeves to offer love and care to a west Atlanta neighborhood; and host just more than 50 Fortune 500 companies focused on integrating social purpose with business strategy.
There is a steady drumbeat of stories that focus on our differences. No matter how you consume your news, you’ll see or hear stories about intolerance in our daily lives and political stalemates at every level of government. At the beginning of the year, the Pew Research Center released a poll and said that Americans predicted the country’s deep political divisions to persist – with 86 percent saying the country is more politically divided than ever. Shortly before that poll was released, however, Points of Light affiliate New York Cares reported that, just a week after one of the most divisive national elections in our country’s history, there was a 137 percent increase in people who came to them with an interest in volunteering.
A 60-second scroll on any digital device reveals the clutter of cynicism and spurious claims that we must constantly fight through to find stories about the light of humanity. But, that doesn’t stop us from constantly searching for those inspiring stories. And beyond being inspired, we’re constantly searching for swift and practical ways to work with others – friends, family, neighbors, coworkers – to do good.