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    Light in Dark Times

    Given that Black History Month encouraged us to look back with pride and appreciation on the past, it might be easy to think that there will never be much to celebrate from 2020.

    After all, it was a year that reminded us in so many ways how Black people continue to face pain and suffering. There were the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others. I don’t think I will ever get out of my mind that video clip of an emotional Doc Rivers speaking after the shooting of Jacob Blake because I think he was asking the fundamental question so many of us wrestle with:

    Why do we love this country so much though it has been built on our backs and it doesn’t love us back?

    When the coronavirus pandemic struck, it became clear again that people of color were at greater risk than others because of ongoing inequities. And then there was the election, with both the attempts at Black voter suppression beforehand and the challenge to voting returns in Black communities like Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Detroit afterward.

    Despite all this, I believe that Black History Month celebrations should view 2020 positively. Issues of race were put on the table in a way we haven’t seen in our lifetime, and that’s a good thing. And I was encouraged by the way in which young people showed up because they want America to be the best it can be.

    I look back on last year as one in which Black pain met Black voice with resolve. I think of the example of Stacey Abrams, who having lost her bid for Governor of Georgia in 2018 devoted her efforts to challenging voting suppression, which helped turn the state in the general election.

    That swing, in turn, was an important factor in another bright moment last year, of course—Kamala Harris becoming the first Black woman elected vice president of the United States of America. Only time will tell how significant this turns out to be, but I suspect that future Black History Month celebrations will view her selection as a profoundly important moment for our nation.

    It’s true that some people are capable of dreaming powerful dreams regardless of the prevailing circumstances, but I tend to believe in the truism that you have to be able to see it to be it. And so with her blend of balanced excellence in what she does, and her palpable joy—I’m thinking of her Chuck Taylors and her dancing—Vice President Harris points to a broader, brighter future for Black and brown girls. She gives permission for the young women who will follow to show up in a similar way. That’s truly worth celebrating.

    A leading figure in advertising and marketing, Renetta McCann is Chief Inclusion Experience Officer at Publicis Groupe. She was formerly Chief Talent Officer at Leo Burnett and CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Worldwide.

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