OP-ED: This Black History Month: Demand Change


As we reflect on progress and pay homage to those who have come before us this Black History Month, it is hard to ignore the challenges we face today.

The work being done in the White House to dismantle regulations and roll back decades of progress on racial equality will cause reprehensible damages that will affect future generations for years to come. Now more than ever, we must be organized to combat regressive policies on education, employment, housing, immigration, policing and voting rights.

Today, I’m reminded of the struggles of the past and how communities rallied, marched and legislated together to demand change. We’ve been here before during the Jim Crow Era, during which those in power tried to limit progress in communities of color.

We’ve come a long way since the Civil Rights Movement, and as white supremacists have become emboldened with agendas in the White House it is more important than ever to band together to ensure that we do not roll back the clock to 1955.

Nobody will voluntarily change the systems that keep them in power. This is why it is critical that our communities are more organized than ever. From the women’s march to thousands showing up at a minute’s notice at John F. Kennedy International Airport to fight President Donald Trump’s racist immigrant ban, we have shown what we can achieve with the power of unity.

As mid-term elections fast approach, we are going to have to do our part to ensure Democrats take back the U.S. House and Senate. This will require us to get us of out of our comfort zones. Whether it’s making phone calls, knocking doors, and voter registration, we have a moral obligation to safeguard our children’s futures through tangible action.

Since history often repeats itself, all we need to look to are stories such as the abolishment of the “separate but equal” doctrine, the stand Rosa Parks took by taking a seat, the persistence of the freedom riders in the South, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or Shirley Chisholm’s run for president in 1972.

Every one of the movements for justice and equality throughout American history has faced fierce opposition, but for every effort to push back, we must take two steps forward. But the most important steps we can take are getting ourselves educated on local candidates for elected office and getting out to the voting both to ensure our voices are heard.

If there’s been any glimmer of hope recently, it’s been the congressional victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Alabama last year. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Voting is the cornerstone of action.”

Donovan Richards is the councilman for Queens’ 31st District.

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