Leveling the Playing Field
Celebrating the Achievements of African Americans
The month of February has been designated as Black History Month. It has become a central theme in American culture, recognizing and celebrating the achievements of African Americans. The early origins began as “Negro History Week,” by distinguished historian, Cater Woodson, and other prominent and influential African Americans. The intent was to shine the spotlight on the significant contributions of blacks in American history.
President Gerald Ford began the tradition of celebrating Black History Month in 1976, and each U.S. President since has endorsed a specific theme. This year recognizes and honors the roles black Americans have played in times of war, beginning with the American Revolution until the present day.
Our Pan African teams took the opportunity on Martin Luther King Day to voice their support and solidarity for the disenfranchised among us, and to remind us of early injustices that black Americans faced and the continuing struggle we face as a nation and a world to stop injustice and ignorance that would divide us and to recognize the value and dignity of every human being.
In an impassioned letter to colleagues and friends, they expressed their sentiments and support for the contributions that black Americans have made in leveling the playing field, not just for African Americans, but for immigrants and people of different ethnicities, races, religions and cultures.
“In light of the continued rise of injustice in many communities within the past year, MLK Day provides us with an important opportunity to not only reflect on the subject of civil rights, but to also recognize how much work still needs to be done. Amidst constant change to the way we look at intercultural exchange as a country, it is important to understand why and how Martin Luther King’s efforts allow us, as a company, to flourish in the way that we do.
Blacks were excluded from J-1 visa programs and international exchange programs for many years, and because of Martin Luther King and his efforts, more blacks can participate in these programs. Nonetheless, with over 200,000 individuals deported in 2017 (of all backgrounds and ethnicities) it is important to note that the fight for civil equity and equality continues to be forged. In relation to our efforts as a company, it is important to note that J-1 Visas as well as immigrant visas were not given to people of African descent before the civil rights movement. In fact, most blacks in Africa were not allowed to legally enter the U.S. until the 60s.
Moreover, through programs like the Ubuntu program as well as the upcoming launch of the L.O.V.E Program (along with many other initiatives taken), we are glad that Victoria Lynden and Alliance Abroad work to not only recognize these injustices, but to also provide an opportunity for individuals from marginalized backgrounds to achieve something greater, despite the recurring struggle placed on minorities. Furthermore, please use this day of service to extend kindness and goodwill to everyone you come into contact with, in order to live out MLK’s legacy. Finally, use this information as a reminder that what we do here is not only a wonderful career opportunity, but more importantly, it provides us with the occasion to change lives daily. That is something we should never take for granted.”
Each of us can play a role in bringing about the positive changes that will ensure equality, peace and prosperity around the world.