REMARKS AS PREPARED
Black History Month Proclamation Remarks
Feb. 4, 2016
I want to thank you for joining me today for this important part of Oregon’s Black History Month celebration.
You and your families hail from all over Oregon, our country, and our world, and I’m thrilled that we can come together to honor Black Americans in our state.
We wouldn’t be here today if it were not for Carter G. Woodson, who laid the foundation for African American History Month, in 1926. At the time, Mr. Woodson dedicated the second week of February to the achievements of Black Americans. He did this because they were all but erased from national history and underrepresented in important policy decisions.
His goal was to add the history of Black Americans to school curricula, and encourage people of African descent and all others to honor the accomplishments of Black people. He also believed that education and fostering more opportunities for Blacks and Whites to interact socially and professionally could reduce racism. This was one of the reasons he promoted the organized study of African-American history.
Today, Mr. Woodson’s efforts are very much still warranted. We are regularly reminded that racism and interracial conflict are still alive and well in this country and our state. Black students are still being taunted or harassed – even assaulted - on their college campuses based on the color of their skin. In Flint, Michigan, where a significant percentage of residents are Black, lead-laced water the color of rust runs from the tap, consumed by everyone from babies to elders. And in cities all over America, Black men and women express publicly their deep distrust of law enforcement.
I’d like to share a quote from Mr. Woodson.
“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think, you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do.
“If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself.
“If you make a man think he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
As I watch our nation continue to buckle under the weight of racial prejudice and discrimination, I recognize and embrace my role as Governor, and the leader of state government, in bringing Oregonians together; and in making sure all residents have equitable opportunities to thrive. Together, we must address the structures that allow for systematic racism and injustices to continue.
I have dedicated my adult life to giving voice to those whose voices have been underrepresented in the policy-making process. And I remain committed to doing this work, and not just during Black History Month, but every day of the year. There are many people and organizations in this room committed to achieving social justice in Oregon. I offer you my thanks and my encouragement as we continue to work together to end the culture of racism and discrimination and replace it with a culture of equality, opportunity, and hope.
I am grateful that Carter G. Woodson created the space for us to have such dialogue with one another, to reach out to brothers and sisters of all skin colors and join in a collective effort to make our state and nation one that we can all be proud of.
And now, I will read the proclamation honoring Black History Month.
WHEREAS: In February, America recognizes and acknowledges the Black American struggle for racial justice that stirred the very conscience of our nation and helped guide the shape of her character; and
WHEREAS: Black Americans for generations have courageously led the pursuit of justice and equality. Struggling to overcome the past, yet still moving forward, our nation strives to live by the founding principle…that all people are created equal; and
WHEREAS: Oregon, as a proud home of many who have tirelessly championed equality and justice, honors the rich heritage; extraordinary contributions and accomplishments; Black leaders have been active and influential in communities statewide from the earliest explorations to today playing central roles in some of the most triumphant and courageous moments of our state’s history and recognizes that Black History is indeed, America’s history; and
WHEREAS: Visionary Black leaders and organizations continue to remind us of the importance of ensuring that Black achievements are in our history book and cultural celebrations for new generations while taking on the challenges to advance reforms and break down barriers, we also recognize that in spite of progress, racial prejudice still exists in America; and
WHEREAS: As individuals, we must be foot soldiers to end discrimination by advancing equity and opportunity for Black Oregonians, and continue to build an Oregon where every person can realize his or her dream and the promises of America.
NOW THEREFORE: I, Kate Brown, Governor of the State of Oregon, hereby proclaim February 2016 to be Black History Month in Oregon and encourage all Oregonians to join in this observance.