Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." The month of February, Black History Month, is a season to celebrate the many accomplishments of incredible African American pioneers and leaders both past and present who have made significant contributions to the world.
In South Carolina, we have a very rich history of world changers and history makers who have paved the road for many of us to travel or, as it was once said, built a lasting foundation for future generations to build upon.
When we think of African American history in the Palmetto State, we can think about pioneers such as George Elmore of Columbia whose Feb. 21, 1947, lawsuit and ruling by the court opened the door for African Americans to vote in Democratic primaries in South Carolina.
We also think about Sara Mae Flemming from Eastover who was expelled from a bus in Columbia 17 months before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on an Alabama bus in 1955. Mrs. Flemming's lawsuit against the bus company played an important role later in the Parks case. Living South Carolina legends and history makers such as Congressman James Clyburn, Lucille Whipper, Marian Wright Edelman, Harvey Gantt, Leah Moody, and Jaime Harrison, also come to mind.
During this National African American History Month, we reflect on civil rights in America. As citizens of this country, we are grateful and proud of the countless and nameless successes of fellow Americans who make up the story of the United States. To pause for a few days to learn and celebrate is fitting; nevertheless, there are still more hills to climb and more rivers to cross.
While it's the right season to celebrate, it is even more critical for our generation to plant seeds so that future generations will have shade. It is not enough to elect the first African Americans to political office, judgeships and boards of trustees at institutions of higher learning.
Looking back at progress and seeking inspiration from trailblazers are fitting during this month, but it cannot rest there. Those known and unknown who were inventors, honorable people, who first and only would want black, brown and white people to live up to the better ideals of a society that treats each other with respect every day rather than only during an observatory period.
We must work without ceasing to make it easier for people to vote and not a hassle. We must labor for a more balanced criminal justice system. We must demand and act on building businesses through investments in every sector of what makes up a more perfect union. The task of building communities through affordable housing, clean air, safe drinking water and common-sense immigration reform is still at hand. Creating and sustaining jobs on "both sides of the track" is vital to having ladders of opportunity for shared economic growth and access to an above-average educational system. Regardless of whether one lives off I-85 or I-95, pathways to healthy communities and quality affordable health care must exist at every exit in this state and nation.
The issues of individuals and seniors having a living wage cannot be taken up in the next legislative session or passed onto another administration, and basic human rights should be granted as rights rather than privileges.
As we acknowledge the advances of those who triumph over injustice and inequality, let us use this time to recommit ourselves, our places of worship, our schools, our businesses and our communities to instill a greater sense of pride and determination that will enable future generations to achieve much and advance more for the sake of a beloved community.
The spirit of being resilient has brought South Carolina's darkest history to light. Such reconciliation, that same spirit, that same group of people, that same sense of pride and determination to lead this state beyond the measurement of man can be done.
Too much is at stake for us to let this season pass without continued action.
Clay N. Middleton is a former aide to 6th District Rep. James Clyburn. Antjuan Seawright is president and CEO of Sunrise Communications.
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