What Black History Month Means to Me: Quotables from Local Notables

This story was edited by Caedra Scott-Flaherty.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Black History Month is about honoring African-American history, which is American History, but much was untold. For example, we have blood banks and blood transfusions because of Dr. Charles R. Drew‘s work on plasma and blood storage. Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light and gas mask, Frederick Jones invented refrigerated trucks, and nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the home security system. In sports, Althea Gibson opened doors for Black athletes, competing at Wimbledon in 1951 and winning in 1957 and 1958. This is the time to shine a spotlight on Black accomplishment rooted in perseverance, ingenuity, and resilience.”
– Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader, New York State Senate (District 35)


Chereese Jervis-Hill

Black History Month means pride and joy to my family and me, and we very much look forward to the month of February each year. It’s a month of celebration, reflection, and gratitude for those that helped pave the way for future generations, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example.

  • Chereese Jervis-Hill, President & Founder, Events To Remember


Antonio Knott

Black history is necessary because Black people need to be reminded that they come from inventors, scholars, leaders, and pretty much all walks of life.  I believe in order to know where you can go, you must know where you come from, and this is only limited by a lack of knowledge.

  • Antonio Knott, Treasurer, Peekskill Pride; Co-Chair, Peekskill Task Force on Police Reform


Martin McDonald

Every year I look forward to celebrating Black History Month because I always learn something I didn’t know. I like to follow the National Themes that are determined by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded by Black Historian Carter G. Woodson. This year’s theme is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” Last year’s theme was African Americans and the Vote … how timely was that?

–  Martin McDonald, Founder & President, Black Diamonds Academic Success, Inc.


Valerie Eaton

Each year we celebrate Black History Month and people of color in America dig deeper and deeper into their ancestry and the black heroes of yesteryear. This year, as we mourn many of our historians and matriarchs, victim to 2020, we stand in 2021 with history in the making as the first woman of color Vice President of the United States takes office.  Black history should have a different meaning to everyone. It should be in the fabric of our education, it should be noted on the halls and walls of our hospitals and financial institutions. Black History Month should be an example of what our textbooks look like. Historically, Black History Month brought focus, but 2020 brought the vision of what Black history really is and what more of America now knows …Black history is America’s history.

  • Valerie Eaton, President, Peekskill NAACP


Andre Rainey

Black History Month is a time when African-Americans can reflect and see what the people before them fought for. With the wicked battles from slavery, racism to simple human rights, reading our history reminds me that we are a strong people. We’ve prevailed. If we can teach our children to fight as we were forced to fight, we will be the greats in every industry.

  • Andre Rainey, Mayor, City of Peekskill


Evan Bishop and Katori Walker

Black History Month to us is best described through the African Adinkra symbol of the Sankofa. This means, “Go back and get it.” It is a time to learn more about our rich ancestry and our contributions to world civilization.

  • Evan Bishop and Katori Walker, Artists and Co-founders, Art4Wellness


Thomas Butler

Although discrimination was not abolished in the United States Armed Forces until July 26, 1948, by President Harry S. Truman, Afro-American soldiers have fought to protect the freedom of America — since the beginning of the Revolutionary War to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan — with courage, honor, and valor. Let us remember the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, founded in 1941, who were the first military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, who fought victoriously in WWII. Let us remember the Black Buffalo Soldiers, members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army, formed on Sept. 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to protect the western territories of the United States.

  • Thomas D. Butler, Mayor, Village of Tarrytown


Kern Mojica

As a father of three and a Black educational leader, I celebrate African-Americans’ accomplishments throughout the year. To me, Black History Month serves as an important opportunity to shine a spotlight on the many achievements and indispensable contributions of African-Americans to the development of this country.

  • Kern Mojica, Principal, Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School, Croton-on-Hudson


Rev Jeannette Phillips

Black History to me signals the fact that “Our Story” is steeped in over 400 years of history.  We must correct the narrative of Black American achievements as some history books left the pages blank or we were omitted altogether as hidden figures. Our efforts have helped America soar in spaces that go beyond this month but make every day spectacular!

  • The Rev. Jeannette Phillips, Executive Director of Housing Preservation Company; Executive Vice President, Community Development, Sun River Health


Colin Smith

Each year, Americans come together to recognize the numerous achievements and contributions made by Black Americans to our great country. By celebrating Black History Month, we acknowledge the core principle that our strength is in our diversity.

  • Colin D. Smith, Esq., Legislator, Westchester County Disrtict 1


Duane Jackson

Black History Month reminds me of the “Magic of Black Women” who have been at the forefront of the fight against racial disparities. Women who were often the lost leaders willing to do the work but rarely receiving the recognition or accolades they deserved. Their legacy is hope for basic human and civil rights for all Americans.

  • Duane Jackson, Trustee, Village of Buchanan


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About the Author: Caedra Scott-Flaherty