When I think of Black History Month, I think about Ruby Bridges in her white dress and bobbie socks, poised and composed. She is small but walks upright, with pride, going to school amid men in suits walking before and after her. I think of Rosa Parks, her shrewd and strategic organizing, and her unfaltering resolve to stand her ground and not give up her seat. I think about the history of how Historically Black Colleges and Universities came to be, the importance of these institutions, and how incredibly fulfilling it is that I now have the privilege to serve on the Board of Tuskegee University. I think of my grandmother, who used to cook her famous smothered potatoes and onions in our family kitchen until the delightful smell filled the house and brought the whole family around the table. To this day, I continue to share this dish with family and friends – a small token of the rich culture and lessons she gave to me. I even think of Kobe Bryant, and the way he brought us all together just a few weeks ago, sharing our deep admiration for a person who dared to be great. Admiration for a person who worked relentlessly until he achieved his goals, then worked even harder once he reached them. Gigi Bryant, too, remains in our minds: a fresh face of the future, with Kobe’s love and dedication, inspiring us all to invest in our future with time, love, and care.
These memories are dear to me, as yours are to you, because they represent shared experiences centering on kindness and bringing people together. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all share a basic, universal nature in our lives. We live not separate from one another, but dependent on one another. Every day, we engage the people around us. Every day, we reach for higher standards, celebrate those who came before us, and strive for growth. Every day, we work to make the world a better place.
As I look to the future, I am excited and hopeful. While we may not solve all our challenges in the next year, progress awaits us at every turn. Black History Month reminds us all to embrace the friendships we share and develop new bridges in our lives. We are reminded to appreciate that we all are participants of this history, to recognize work that may go unnoticed, to never become complacent, to be amazing every day, and to strive for excellence. Our lives will always be works in progress, but the effort each one of us places in improving our communities – in holding ourselves to high standards of inclusion, compassion, and integrity, makes our lives invaluable.
In the words of one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” I hope we all can take time this month – and beyond – to remember to support one another and write the next beautiful chapter in our lives, as well as the lives of our families, communities, and country.
Tamika Tremaglio is a Born This Way Foundation board member and the Greater Washington Managing Principal for Deloitte LLP