Every year since 1976, February has marked Black History Month in the United States, a celebration of the Black community, their accomplishments, and their contributions to society. It’s also a time to reflect on the struggles the Black community has endured throughout history, as well as the challenges it still faces today as the fight for a more equitable nation and world continues.
In recognition of this important national observance, we’ve asked members of the Booth community to reflect on why this month matters to them and how their identities have shaped who they are today.
Jason Quiara, Weekend MBA, Neubauer Civic Scholar
“Black History Month creates space for all of us, both in and outside the Black community, to show appreciation for the courageous sacrifices of countless women and men who paved the way for Black excellence today. It eternalizes a timeless narrative that endures across generations and tells the story of our past, present, and future. Black History Month reminds me that change is the product of individual voices and collective wills. As I reflect upon the heroism of civil rights stalwarts who came before, I hope to honor their legacy—as well as my own identity—by becoming a more forceful catalyst for the change I seek.”
Jasmine Ferguson, Full-Time MBA, Neubauer Civic Scholar
“Black History Month is an acknowledgment of the fight my people have made to make this country a better place for all. As a descendant of enslaved people, I keep my ancestors at the front of my mind as the driving force behind my passion. I am inspired by my great grandmother who devoted herself to giving her family a better life after leaving the Jim Crow South, despite facing hardship and racism in Chicago. Their experiences and efforts have made me the woman I am today. As a Neubauer Civic Scholar, I will continue to create an impact by building economic and educational opportunities for those who reflect my community.”
Michael Diarra, Executive MBA Student
“Black History Month is the time to reflect on the Black community’s journey. I am the son of African immigrants in France, and I immigrated to the United States as a young adult. I see Black History Month as a time to reflect on the many struggles Black communities have and continue to overcome in North America, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the many islands our ancestors were taken to.
“Black History Month is also a month of celebrating the Black diaspora’s many successes. These successes include the monumental contribution of Black people to the construction of our beloved country, the United States of America, as well as gifts to the world from artists like Beyoncé and recently passed Sidney Poitier.
“I am not a stranger to those success stories. When I immigrated to the United States many years ago, attending a prestigious university like the University of Chicago was a distant dream. The Black community still has many challenges to overcome here in the United States and abroad. The University of Chicago has shown me that with hard work, determination, and collaboration with people of all races, sexual orientation, religions, ages, political views, or social statuses, adding our own stories to the stories of great Black leaders like Collin Powell is possible.”
Looking Back through the Generations
Hear members of Booth’s African American MBA Association share stories of family members who inspired them and helped get them where they are today.
Chloe Saddler reflects on her grandfather, who was one of three Black doctors in his graduating class. Tim Thomas III shares how his grandparents have inspired him in their pursuit of education and real estate. Taylor Williams says her grandmother, who was accepted to UChicago in 1950, is a reminder of her own capacity to achieve her dreams. Darren Williams’ great grandmother has shown his family how to lead spiritually and give back to their community, while Chanel Walker sees herself in her grandmother, whose curiosity drove her to constantly learn new things and take on new challenges.
Chloe Saddler: This is a photo of my grandfather, Haines Robinson. He’s in his mid-twenties on a trip to Paris while he was in the Army and stationed in Germany. It’s one of my favorite photos of him because of the possibilities it represents. After his time in the Army, he went to medical school with help from the GI Bill, where he was one of three Black doctors in his graduating class. He ended up having a 54-year-career in medicine, and throughout that time remained humble, never took anything for granted, and was incredibly collaborative. I definitely consider him a role model of mine and hope to embody the traits he had throughout his career as I continue mine.
Tim Thomas III: This is a photo of my paternal grandparents, Ophelia and Timothy Thomas Sr, as newlyweds. During this photo, my grandmother’s pursuing her master of education, and they’ve always been role models to me through their pursuit of education, but also in their obtaining of real estate throughout their lives. It’s particularly been an inspiration to me to go to business school and not only pursue that education, but also continue their legacy within the real estate sphere.
Taylor Williams: This is a photo of my grandmother, Shirley Williams. She’s currently 88 years young. Her family moved from Louisiana to the Chicagoland area in the early 1900s during a period of American history known as the Great Migration, in which around 6 million African Americans fled the Jim Crow South to achieve more opportunity above the Mason-Dixon Line. Fun fact, she was actually accepted into the University of Chicago in the year 1950 as an undergraduate student. She’s a constant reminder to me of my own capacity to achieve my dreams.
Darren Williams: My photo is of 15-year-old Justine, more known as Medea Williams. She’s my great-grandmother. And in the photo she ... it was before she came to Chicago, she’s in her hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. During the Great Migration, she came with my great-grandfather in the fifties. And since then, she’s been an inspiration in showing us how to lead spiritually, how to give back to both the family, and also be a help to the community as well. And just her drive for education and her push for us to be financially stable really helped our family to aspire to that, and to have her as a living example is something that we love.
Chanel Walker: My picture is my maternal grandparents on their wedding day when they were a little bit younger than me. My grandmother had dreams of going to undergrad and getting her college degree, but with a burgeoning family, that wasn’t really a possibility. However, she didn’t let that really stop her in continuing to learn and always being curious about new topics. She took business courses, she taught herself how to make her own wine, how to be a landlord. And I think that that really has rubbed off on me, always wanting to learn new things and take on new challenges. And I think that that’s 100 percent of the reason why I’m getting my MBA here at Booth and that’s something that I know that I got from my granny.
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