Each year, we celebrate Black History Month to recognize the contributions and influence of African Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.
Our Start Early staff members: Erice Evans, senior financial analyst; Stuart Lassiter, early childhood practice consultant; Kristie Norwood, education manager for the Early Head Start and Head Start Network of Illinois shared how their heritage has shaped their identity and impacted their work, how they maintain their culture and why it’s important to recognize Black History Month.
How do you feel that your African American heritage has influenced your identity and what do you appreciate most about being Black?
Kristie Norwood: What I appreciate most about being Black is being Black. It is a heritage and legacy of strength and strong traditions of faith and family. I love that feeling of coming into a room and even if there’s only one other Black person there is an immediate connection of knowing each other.
Erice Evans: We come from a very rich background and history that I appreciate as I’m older now that I didn’t really know to appreciate growing up. I love the melanin and the different colors, characteristics, traits and everything that makes us a beautiful people from the outside to the inside. My [African American] heritage has made me who I am today.
Stuart Lassiter: Being Black is my identity and it’s how I’m recognized by others and also how I recognize myself. My family has always stressed what it means to be a Black male. The idea that I heard from my great grandfather, grandfather and uncles of being the best you can be because you have to work from a place of excellence to be seen as being good.
One thing I truly appreciate is our strength, perseverance and striving to always overcome. It’s amazing that we’ve come so far and still have so far to go.
Erice Evans: I love that you mention strength because it is part of our heritage. We were taught the skills to overcome anything. If you get knocked down get back up and keep fighting. We don’t stay down.