By MaRico Tippett

To recognize and highlight the roles of African Americans in U.S. history as we begin the celebration of Black History month, I want to take a moment to give thanks for the present. We live in the best of times in human history. America provides a good quality of life to a diverse country of many races, ethnicities, and people from all walks of life. We do not live in a perfect world, but we must acknowledge how far we have come as a nation.

We have progressed from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and the end of slavery; from the World Wars to Jim Crow Laws; from the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the Civil Rights Movement; and from the wars in the Gulf and Afghanistan to riots in the streets for the unjustified killings of African Americans. Throughout this all, America has steadily marched closer each decade to realizing the words of its founding fathers that all men are created equal. But we are at another critical juncture in American history. We are at a place where Americans seem to have lost faith in our Federal Government, our Congress; lost faith in our American democracy and worst we seem to be losing faith in each other.

There was a time in the late 1950’s when only 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriages. By the year 2013 that number was up to 87%. However, over the last few years that number has started to decline with only 53% of Americans saying race relations were good. This is down from 72% in 2013. How do we hold together the hard-fought wins for racial equality of the past two centuries?

As a diverse nation, the social divide between us seems larger than ever before. However, the reality is we are closer than we have ever been in history to bridging the gap of inequality, diversity and inclusion and moving toward Cultural Competence.

Cultural Competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across different races and cultures. In 2020 we saw the plight of African Americans reach a point of crisis and tension and America could no longer stay silent. Our country was forced to confront the issue of race by showing solidarity and empathy to the woes of inequality. American companies and organizations large and small proudly opened their doors as an invitation to have discussions of diversity and inclusion. Businesses and districts large and small came together to promote equality and justice.

In our own community, we saw an outpouring of love and people pulling together despite racial or ethnic differences. The Cultural Competence Committee, started in 2017, comprised of several community members and I who serve as advisors to the Vail Unified School District, took definitive steps to continue improving diversity and inclusion in our schools. Just as VUSD has done, many organizations across the nation have taken steps to be an agent of change to foster a more open, diverse, and inclusive society. If we want true change, each of us must look inside ourselves and be the change we want to see in the world.

We act because we believe. If we as a community, a district, a city, a state, and a nation believe that all persons are created equal; if we believe in equality and justice; if we believe in diversity and inclusion let us no longer sit idle and allow injustice, inequality, and unkindness of any kind to go unchecked. Martin Luther King stated in his letter from a Birmingham jail that, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I am hopeful that we as a nation will reexamine the long-standing effects our of past and continue the progress toward Cultural Competence.

MaRico is the owner of a Registered Investment Advisory Firm called Community Wealth Builders and he has his own Tech Firm, CTECH Force Support, LLC. As a Community Advocate, MaRico serves on several nonprofit Boards to include: the Association Board of the YMCA of Southern Arizona, The Southern Arizona Chapter of American Red Cross, Tucson Hearts of Gold and Greater Vail Community Resources.

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