Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement in recognition of Black History Month:

“This month honors the countless accomplishments of African Americans whose triumphs over discrimination and adversity have greatly added to the diverse mosaic of American culture.

This month-long celebration of black history is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the contributions of past heroes and celebrate the achievements of today’s leaders. We also pause to pay tribute to the many sacrifices and hardships African Americans have already overcome.

Our nation commemorates black history month in thanks to the great historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson, the son of former slaves, made it his ambition to ensure that African Americans were granted their proper place in American history books. The second African American ever to earn a PhD from Harvard University, Dr. Woodson coordinated the first week-long celebration of black history in 1926.

Dr. Woodson selected the second week in February for this special celebration, to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglas. At the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, President Gerald R. Ford extended the celebration to an entire month calling on Americans to ‘seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.’

The month of February marks other important milestones in black history as well:
  • On February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment, granting black citizens the right to vote, was passed.
  • The first black U.S. Senator, Hiram R. Revels, took his oath of office on February 25, 1870.
  • On February 12, 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in New York City.
The theme of this year’s Black History Month is ‘From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas.’ The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) dedicates this month to the adversities African descendants in the Americas had to overcome to achieve freedom and equality in the age of Emancipation.

Today our nation is privileged to have many African American heroes and leaders achieving great success in prominent leadership positions that range from the boardroom to the classroom.

In my home state of California, we are honored to have many distinguished African American leaders.

I would first like to recognize Lydia H. Kennard. Ms. Kennard is a remarkable woman who until recently served as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), one of the largest airport operations in the world. In this role, Ms. Kennard managed four Los Angeles area airports, oversaw more than 3,000 employees, and administered an annual budget of over $950 million. She is the first woman and African American to hold this position, which is a testament to her many talents.

Ms. Kennard’s admirable academic credentials include a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. Among her leadership positions on many boards, Ms. Kennard is a member of the UniHealth Foundation Board and a member of the California Air Resources Board.

Ms. Kennard’s distinguished education and innumerable accomplishments make her a sterling example to African American leaders of tomorrow.

The next great Californian I would like to recognize is legendary talent Bill Duke. As an actor, producer, director, and writer, Mr. Duke has contributed immensely to the African American community through film, books, and numerous leadership positions.

Mr. Duke served as the Time Warner Endowed Chair in the Department of Radio, Television and Film at Howard University in Washington, DC, was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the California State Film Commission Board, and he presently sits on the Board of Trustees at the American Film Institute.

Bill Duke has sought to use his work as a medium to document and illuminate the African American experience. He directed ‘American Dream: The Boy Who Painted Christ Black,’ for which he won a Cable Ace Award; ‘A Rage In Harlem,’ for which he received a Golden Palm Award nomination by the Cannes Film Festival; and ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ for which he earned an Emmy nomination.

He also chronicled the many achievements of the African American community in his 1994 book, Black Light: The African American Hero, in which he compiled inspiring photo essays of the ninety greatest black heroes of the 20th Century.

The many accolades and credits to his name have helped to earn him a reputation as an artist deeply committed to depicting important social ideals in his work. Bill Duke has truly solidified his role as an important force in African American cultural history.

Throughout his career, Bedford L. Pinkard, another notable Californian, has been the epitome of a leader and public servant for both the African American community and Californians as a whole. After serving in the United States Army, Mr. Pinkard was honorably discharged and soon after returned to work with youth in the Oxnard Recreation Department. While working for the Recreation Department, Mr. Pinkard ran for the Oxnard Union High School District Board (OUHSD). Upon his election, he was the first elected African American in the Tri-Counties, where he served as President, Vice President, and Clerk during his tenure.

At this time, he founded the Oxnard Youth Employment Program (OYES) to give every youth an opportunity to experience having their own job and earning money. This program flourished to produce the outgrowth program of the award winning Oxnard City Corps.

In 1977, Mr. Pinkard founded the La Colonia Youth Boxing Program to divert youth from drugs and gangs. The program has produced three Olympians, two world champions, and was the number one amateur boxing club in the United States in 2000.

As a founding member of The Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC), he also created the Ventura County Chapter of BAPAC. This leading organization develops the political resources necessary to achieve the educational, economic and cultural goals of African Americans in the State of California. He was named ‘Man of the Year’ in 2004 by the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Pinkard’s admirable service to his community continues to be a source of inspiration for all.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the steadfast dedication that Bishop Lemuel Daniel Williams has demonstrated to the African American community through his role as a leader of the Baptist Church. As the President of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, the oldest and largest Baptist Ministerial Alliance in the region, Bishop Williams has worked industriously to improve the lives of underprivileged and underrepresented Californians.

Prior to becoming the President of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, Bishop Williams was involved in the Progressive Baptist State Convention of California in various capacities for over 10 years, including serving four years as its President. Throughout his illustrious career, he has been a tireless advocate for the rights of African Americans and, in particular, an enthusiastic activist for African American youth.

Bishop L. Daniel Williams has devoted his life to ensuring that the African Americans receive the treatment they deserve and the assistance they need. His long record of public service is truly commendable and makes him worthy of emulation.

These individuals are making a profound difference within their communities and across the country, and greatly contribute to the legacy set forth by Dr. Woodson. They are true humanitarians and embody the ideals of Black History Month. I applaud their achievements and encourage my fellow Californians to do the same.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson said, ‘What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.’

These profound words, I believe, truly capture the meaning of Black History Month.

As Americans, each of us has a duty to ensure that we continue to move forward to achieve an America where race, bias, and prejudice are a part of the past. But the struggle is not yet over. Until we realize Dr. Woodson’s dream, we must continue to speak out against fear, racism, and hatred wherever we encounter it. This must be our constant vigil.”

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