Reflections on Black History Month

Alisa JosephStudent LoanDown readers, our own Alisa Joseph has kindly offered her to share her thoughts on Black History Month. Alisa has 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, and connects her creative passion with her commitment to serving the financial needs of African Americans. As a marketing manager for Wells Fargo, she brings financial expertise, insight and marketing flair to strategic initiatives that promote wealth creation and financial education.

I have invited her here today to share her thoughts on Black History Month. Thank you, Alisa! (—DF)

I am a child of the ‘60s. That era of history holds a special place in me because for all of its turbulence, the tenets of freedom never rang so loudly. Growing up during that time meant that while I was too young to take part, I was conscious enough to understand its relevance in my family’s life. The Civil Rights Movement with the March on Washington, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it possible for me to become part of the legacy of those hopes and dreams. I am proud to be an American whose ancestors helped to move the consciousness of a nation.

I loved the fun things of the ‘60s – my afro, tie-dying shirts; learning to sew and macramé; embracing the arts (particularly music and dance) with Motown groups like the Jackson 5 and Supremes; the Beatles, dancers like Paula Kelly, Judith Jamison, actresses like Diahann Carroll, and plays like Hair and A Raisin in the Sun. These experiences helped to develop a cultural consciousness through the literature and poetry of James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright and Maya Angelou that would shape my life and enable me to utilize that sensibility in my professional career and service to others.

My parents moved from Virginia to New Jersey just 10 years earlier as part of the northern migration, looking for work and a better way of life. They had experienced segregation first-hand, in all its ugliness, fear and limitations. Their dreams for their daughters were to provide the best education possible, own a home and open the door to experiences that they did not have living in the South. And through their life stories, I would begin to search for a deeper understanding of the wonder of being Black/African American and the contributions and sacrifices made by our race to provide equal opportunity for all Americans.

I share these reflections to illustrate that the values we hold true as Americans are so visibly evident in Black/African American culture and should be fully embraced in American history. I’ve learned about the economic history of Black/African Americans – Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, Oscar Micheaux’ film company, and Black/African American newspapers and magazines with companies like the Amsterdam News and Johnson Publishing. Kwanzaa was first established in 1966; and before Oprah Winfrey, Xernona Clayton hosted a primetime TV talk show in 1968.

And women like Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. Dorothy Height were not only icons in the Civil Rights movement but helped to create economic development programs in southern rural communities. While the mini-series “Roots” by Alex Haley changed the discussion of slavery in America forever in the late ’70’s, organizations like the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) keep the legacy of Carter G. Woodson alive with White House proclamations for Black History Month.

Although I didn’t know it then, my place in time held unknown life experiences for me that were part of that young girl’s life and imagination. I still love my afro; owning a home and providing an education to my children are part of my family legacy; and I still love everything about the 60’s. I grew up living diversity every day with the encouragement of my parents telling me that I could be anyone I wanted. So I did. In my career, I have had the privilege to lead, serve and support all kinds of people across all markets in this company and its predecessors.

That’s why it’s very exciting that on February 9, Wells Fargo launched a national tour (SF, Charlotte and Baltimore) featuring The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersects. The collection underscores the importance of the Black/African American experience in shaping America and will spark new dialogue across the U.S.

I am proud to work for a company that values diversity and understands the significance of African American history.

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2 Responses to Reflections on Black History Month

  1. Jeff says:

    Black History is one of my favorite months, I make sure I learn something new everyday and appreaciate you for writing this post.

    Minneapolis Web Design

    • Dana says:

      Jeff, thank you very much for your note and I am appreciative of your commitment to learn more. Please take the time to explore during the year as well; it is truly amazing how our everyday lives are impacted by these important contributions. Alisa

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