By Malaika Randolph
There is an extra emphasis on Black History Month this year, especially because of protests that erupted after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black citizens. But there are also some important strides that have been made.
The brightest of those are that for the first time, a Black woman, Kamala Harris, was instated as the Vice President of the United States. Harris also represents Asians, and she is the first African American and the first woman to have served as Attorney General of California, and the second African American woman to ever have been elected to the United States Senate.
“I think it’s amazing,” UMHB student Chloe Ruedas said. “We have a lot of work to do and a lot of progress to continue to make, but the efforts that we have taken are amazing. Especially for women and women of color. Even though we have so much progress in doing, it’s okay to celebrate what we have won.”
Ruedas pinpoints that not only did Harris win by becoming Vice President, but Black women won someone to represent them in the highest office.
“Having her as vice president, having someone who looks like us in such power is uplifting,” junior pre-med major Gilda Tchao said. Tchao is also involved in the Association of Black Students (ABS) and Pre-Health Professionals Club.
Vice President Kamala Harris was in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority when she was at Howard University. In her 2020 memoir, she describes herself as what her mother expected her to be: a “confident, proud, black woman.”
Virginia Leak may have had the same inclination. She graduated with the first integrated class at Temple High School in 1968 and graduated then from UMHB’s nursing program in 1979. She is now an Educational Chairperson for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), as well as a founder of Temple Colleges’ nursing program.
Beth Norvell, Associate Director of Alumni Relations of the UMHB Museum, said that Leak likes to guide and share her wisdom.
“When I interviewed her,” Norvell said, “she stopped and said, ‘now let me tell you about the Lord.’ She is so nurturing and sweet. She is vibrant.”
Leak mentioned the UMHB faculty as having a large influence on her, as they encouraged her to keep studying, which in turn, made her own influence on others memorable as well.
“My favorite memory at UMHB….. was the nursing faculty,” Leak remembered.
Dr. Teresa Beamon, who is the first Black student nurse to obtain a Doctorate of Nursing Practice at UMHB, recalls having Leak as her professor.
“Even back in the 80’s, she was the one who would tell every nursing student ‘You can be whoever you want to be,” Beamon said. “I always want to be able to encourage, to mentor, and be a transformational leader…. the way she [Leak] was.”
Beamon said that she loves teaching now, and that she tells her students every time she brings up a subject, that it’s her favorite.
“It’s my favorite because it’s information I want them to know so they can go out into their profession and be the best they can be,” Beamon said.
The new vice president, Kamala Harris, advises that we honor everyone’s contribution to Black History.
“Let’s use Black History Month to honor not only figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks,” Harris wrote in 2017, “but … all of whom have contributed to making our communities, state, and country more just places for all. Let us also aspire to do the same for the next generation, whether they will know our names or not.”