As we come to the end of Black History Month, we must all reflect on the origins of this annual observance. And while Black History is American History, we realize through a long, overdue elevation of racial justice that too many Americans are unaware of the often-overlooked accomplishments of Black Americans in every aspect of our culture – from “Black Wall Street” to Los Angeles’s own Biddy Mason, who went from slavery to becoming a nurse, California real estate entrepreneur to philanthropist and founder of the First AME Church in Los Angeles in the 1800s. 

While the predominant American narrative is that “anyone can lift themselves up by their bootstraps and access the American Dream through hard work,” my hope is that America is finally waking up to understanding the persistent racism of policies and systems that no individual could ever overcome – from redlining, predatory lending, housing discrimination, mass incarceration and police brutality, and lack of access and investment in equitable healthcare, education and economic mobility.  
This pandemic has laid bare these inequities as communities of color are disproportionately impacted, through the health risks of being an essential worker, the economic stress of not having a job, looming evictions, and the consistent trauma of watching people of color being killed in our streets. And alarming new information shows that wealthy, white neighborhoods have vaccination rates of 25% or more, while areas of South/Southeast L.A. have rates of 9% or below.  

While overcoming this part of our history is daunting, there are bright spots that should give us all hope.  Black Lives Matter has created a global call to action for us to understand that we all can and must be part of the solution. Communities are rethinking their policies and investments and I was so proud that we were a part of the Re-imagine LA County Coalition, which helped pass Measure J, that redirects 10% of unrestricted County revenue from policing and incarceration to community investment, alternatives to incarceration, and care. 

It is also critical that we support Black leaders and Black-led organizations and we want to pay tribute to our partners who are on the front lines every day and are true warriors for justice.

In closing, I would ask that we all do our part to create a more just and inclusive Los Angeles because the best way to honor Black History is by working to create a more racially just society.