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Wakanda Forever! How New York State is Creating Living History

Black history is being created right now in New York, says State Senator Kevin Parker.
Kevin Parker Launches Campaign for New York City Comptroller
New York State Senator Kevin Parker.

Since 1976, we have “officially” celebrated February as Black History Month due largely in part to the work and teachings of Carter G. Woodson, who in his day dedicated his life to the study of the history of African American people. He viewed this as important because of the blatant attempt to essentially erase our contributions from the face of world history.

Due to his efforts we use this month to celebrate and honor the legacy and contributions of our historical figures in every field of endeavor. Though it's wonderful to talk about the people and places of historical significance during February, I believe it’s far more important in 2024 America to underscore a critical point being neglected especially here in our great Empire State of New York: That Black history is now!

Let’s examine this microscopically and also look at what the conclusion means for us as a society. The foundation for my claim is the fact that at no other point in our history we have had so much Black political leadership at every level of government in the state of New York.

It starts with the Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado, NYS Attorney General Letitia James, Speaker of the NYS Assembly Carl Heastie and President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader of the NYS Senate Andrea Stewarts-Cousins. In addition, we also have Majority Leader of the Assembly Crystal D. Peoples–Stokes.

When it comes to mayoral representation, the three top cities in the state – New York, Buffalo and Rochester all have Black mayors respectively: Eric Adams, Byron Brown and Malik Evans. The list goes on with the Speaker of the New York City Council Adrianne Adams, Jumaane Williams as Public Advocate and Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals Hon. Rowan D. Wilson.

Borough wide, we have representation of two Black District Attorneys and two Black Boroughs Presidents in the persons of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, Bronx DA Darcel Clark, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

In all of these leaders collectively, we have living history. But also on an individual level, we cannot ignore the history makers like Andrea Stewart-Cousins being the first African American woman to lead a legislative Conference in the State of New York and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown the longest serving mayor of any city.

There are many other history making pursuits among these esteemed leaders but the central point to my argument is clear: Black History is now! So what does this mean in particular at the societal level? First, this living history should not be squandered. It is a golden opportunity to make a seismic impact on the advancement in the lives of not just African Americans but all people.

Black political empowerment historically has resulted in the empowerment for other groups as well. The hardcore battles won by African Americans in this country on our journey to self-determination did not just benefit Black people. The right to vote, to public education, to government services, housing discrimination based on race and national origin, sex and gender discrimination, workplace sexual harassment are issues that have benefitted marginalized people including but not exclusive to the Latino, Jewish and LGBTQ communities. On record is our history that when we open the doors we hold them open to those who are behind us.

In addition, Black leadership has always been a more equitable leadership because we know oppression. That’s why it is never in question for us of the truth inherent in the statement: stronger together.

In 2018, the blockbuster, history-making movie “Black Panther” created a cultural awakening across the world. The late Chadwick Boseman, who played the film’s main character, had this to say to TIME Magazine prior to its release: “You might say that this African nation is fantasy. But to have the opportunity to pull from real ideas, real places and real African concepts and put it inside of this idea of Wakanda—that’s a great opportunity to develop a sense of what that identity is, especially when you’re disconnected from it.”

I am proud that here in New York we have an opportunity to add one more element to Boseman’s list: real people. It is not a fantasy to look at our state this Black History Month to forge an identity that was hitherto challenged and embrace the notion of, Wakanda Forever!