February is Black History Month in both the United States and Canada. The annual observance happens in February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved people in 1863, and Black abolitionist and social reformer, Frederick Douglas. However, the celebration has a rich history that dates to the year 1926 and begins with a remarkable man named Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
A child of formerly enslaved people, Dr. Woodson grew up in a world with little opportunity for people who looked like him. Working in the coal mines of Kentucky throughout his boyhood, Dr. Woodson was unable to start high school until the age of 20 but once he did, he finished in just 2 years. From there, he went on to earn a PhD from Harvard University.
During his studies, Dr. Woodson realized that history books at the time largely ignored the contributions of Black Americans, and he took it upon himself to address this pitfall. In 1915, Dr. Woodson established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of African American History.
In 1926, Dr. Woodson launched a new initiative aimed at shining the national spotlight on the contributions of Black Americans on a regular basis. Originally a week of acknowledgement, the observance has evolved into the month-long celebration now known as Black History Month.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
As we honor Black History Month throughout February, it is important to not only celebrate the incredible contribution Black Americans and Canadians have and continue to make to our communities, but to also acknowledge some of persistent and systemic challenges they face to this day including those to their health and wellness. By acknowledging these challenges, we can work together to address them and, in turn, support true diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in our communities.
Throughout this month, we are reminded of the need to revisit and improve our practices to ensure we foster an inclusive home for our residents, their family members, and all our team members. We recognize that to build that sense of belonging for each member of our community requires sustained intention, active effort, and practice. Guided by our foundational values center preserving dignity, celebrating diversity, and showing respect for all, we can continue to build a Sunrise that is a home to all.
Black History Month shows us that there is room to improve on our shared journey. We will continue have honest conversations about systemic injustices impacting our team members, residents and families as well as integrating programming that educates about and celebrates the diversity of our identities and backgrounds.
Celebrating Diversity at Sunrise Senior Living
At Sunrise, we join our communities in the U.S. and Canada in celebrating our diverse residents, families and team members. Each bring their own unique stories and experiences, skills and talents to transform our communities into warm and welcoming homes.