Black History Month Reflections

February 2024

February marks Black History Month, which is dedicated to remembering important figures, events and the rich culture and history of Black Americans as well as the African diaspora.  In celebration of Black History Month, Williams & Connolly asked some of our colleagues to reflect on the month and describe what it means to them.

“You do not know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

“This quote holds unique significance in understanding Black history—a history of a people who have been everywhere and have had an impact on everything.  In honoring Black History Month, we recognize the countless contributions that Black individuals have made to shape and enrich our world.  While we of course should not limit such reflection to a specific time of year, Black History Month is a reminder of the importance of dedicating time to that essential task.  Often, when people think about Black History and the Black legacy, the focus is on the civil rights movement.  But Black history did not start there, nor does it stop there.

Black people leave legacies daily as we constantly reshape the narrative surrounding Black excellence.  As a result, Black history can also be found in the mundane.  The progress of Black history is evident in the carefree laughter of a young Black boy playing with his friends, the pride of a Black girl embracing her afro, the warmth of a grandmother’s hug, and the wisdom passed down from an uncle.  These seemingly ordinary instances are made possible by extraordinary persistence, hope, and love.  And they in turn are radical acts from a people who continue to demonstrate unwavering strength and grace in the face of adversity.

Black History Month celebrates the ongoing process of Black growth, empowerment, and joy.  By embracing and amplifying the Black voices of yesterday and today, we honor the past and show a path to a more inclusive and equitable future where every voice is heard and all of life’s moments—big and small—are valued.”

-Key’Toya Burrell, Associate


“Black history holds immense significance for me.  Growing up in D.C., a city rich with African American heritage and once hailed as ‘Chocolate City’, I learned firsthand about the struggles and triumphs of my ancestors.  From Benjamin Banneker to Mary McLeod Bethune to Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Their resilience in the face of adversity inspires me to navigate the complexities of the modern world with grace and determination.  Black history is not a separate chapter in the story of America. Our resilience, ingenuity, and unwavering spirit is woven into the very fabric of our nation's identity.  Black history is American history.”

-Tori Kenner, Senior Patent Paralegal


“The observance of Black History Month is fundamental to the preservation of accounts of black excellency.  Through reflection, not only of the accomplishments of our predecessors, but also of their trials and tribulations; we are able to redefine our self-perception.  When we are able to identify with mastery, we are unconsciously made aware of our ability to attain it.

Black History Month inspires the inquiry of our identity.  Self-perception is developed according to one’s beliefs and environment.  A belief system founded on ignorance (lack of knowledge) manifests a reality of ignorance.  We become what we behold, therefore the exposure associated with Black History Month is invaluable to black culture.  The stories learned throughout the month act as a reminder of our infinite nature; allowing for the restructuring of self-limiting beliefs. 

‘Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.’”

-Carol Moseley-Braun, The First African American Women Elected to the Senate

-Terrence Nelson, Security Assistant


“In my formative years, my grandmother ensured that I knew that education and self-respect were paramount, and impervious to external grasp.  Trailblazers such as Malcolm X, Mary McLeod Bethune and Shirley Chisholm come to mind when I reflect on people who exemplified respect for oneself and understood the importance of education.  They diligently paved the path for the preservation of these values among black men and women, and have long been sources of inspiration for millions.  Their legacies continue to serve as a guiding light, enabling me to perpetuate their noble ideals in my daily life.”

-LaTisha Piper, Benefits Manager


“Now, more than ever, I am reminded of the importance and necessity of Black History Month—especially at a time when the premise of Black history is challenged. After all, it is through examining and reflecting upon Black history that we better understand the beauty, resilience, and complexity of America—and of what this country can, should, and ought to be. It is through recognizing and appreciating the lessons from the past that we can not only imagine but also create a more inclusive future. A future where we actually see, hear, appreciate, acknowledge, and take a vested interest in one another, while also not allowing discomfort, unfamiliarity, or stereotypes to deter us. MLK shared his dream; my hope is that we all will continue to do the work—in both big and small ways and, most importantly, in our own way—to make his calls for justice, equity, inclusion, and equality a reality.”

-Paul Riley, Associate


“Black History Month provides the special opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the rich cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities of Black individuals, which are an indelible part of our country's history.  This month holds particular significance for the legal industry, as it highlights the profound impact that Black attorneys, justices, and leaders have had in shaping the legal landscape – while simultaneously progressing our overall society forward.  The celebration of giants, such as Constance Baker Motley, Jane Bolin, Charles H. Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and Oliver Hill is critical, for without their sacrifices, contributions, and resilience, barriers would remain undemolished, industries would remain segregated, and both human and civil rights would remain unadvanced.  From pioneering lawyers to advocates for justice and equality, the efforts of these individuals have transformed our country and inspired future generations – like myself.  During Black History Month, I give honor to those who sowed the seeds which have allowed myself and others to enter a more inclusive and equitable space for all legal professionals.  Not only this, but I also express gratitude for the struggles they experienced, which have ultimately protected and propelled the freedoms that all Americans possess.  February is an important month to me because it reminds me of the shoulders on which I stand.”

-Kiara Rogers, Associate


“I am the one who stands on the back of my ancestor’s achievements, with an erect spine pointing to the stars with pride, dignity and respect which lets the work place in America know, that I not only possess the ability to play by the rules, but I can make them as well!”

~ Author Unknown

“This poem [excerpt] speaks to me from the spirit and pride of my forebears.  My lineage is blended with strong people who helped create who I am to this very day.  I walk, and sometimes run, proudly on the path my parents set for me, as they walked on the paths individually set for them by their own ancestors.  Paths that intersected and lit with pride, dignity, respect, and the will to overcome any and all obstacles set before them.  

So… now… I’ve played by the rules, and in doing so, have positioned my daughter to be a leader, who makes the rules for others to follow. 

Who am I?  I am the daughter of my ancestors and the mother of future generations to come.  Before me.  With me.  After me.”

-Lora Rucker, Legal Secretary

Williams & Connolly Receives Mansfield Certification for 2022-2023

Williams & Connolly Receives Mansfield Certification for 2022-2023
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