A Reflection on Black History Month 2023

“We’ve got the responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who came before us by doing all that we can do to help those who come after us.”    Michelle Obama


Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

I think all of us can appreciate those times when we are able to reflect on our individual heritage and honor our contributions to society. Each February, I look forward to celebrating Black History Month and honoring my African American heritage and its contributions.  Growing up in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, I remember the familiar names that were lifted up in February—such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King. But it was during my college years in the 70’s, in my Black history courses, that I broadened my historical perspective of Black history and the contributions of African Americans to American history.  It is as the actor, Morgan Freeman once said, “Black history is American History.”

Since 1987, I have maintained a ritual of obtaining a copy of the African American History and Heritage Calendar published by the Josephite religious order. The Josephites are a religious order of priests and brothers committed to serving the African American community. The “Josephite calendar,” as it is commonly called, is printed as a resource, and distributed in December of each year in predominately African American Catholic parishes. The calendar features Black art, and each day lists names, significant dates, and accomplishments of African Americans. I would always get two calendars—one for home and one for my area at work.  I continue that practice today. Each year, I enjoy learning new facts from the Black Heritage Calendar.  This month, a couple of new facts I noted include learning about:  Charlotte Ray, 1st African American woman lawyer to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1872; Rebecca Lee Crumpler, 1st African American woman to receive an M.D. degree in 1864; and Debi Thomas, 1st African- American woman to win a medal (figure skating) at the Winter Olympics-1988 Calgary Canada.

Representation is important. It means a lot to be able to reflect on your heritage and to see “someone who looks like you” reflected in various roles in society. One of my favorite photographs of former President Barack Obama, captures the moment where he bends forward to allow a little Black child to touch his hair, “to see if it was like his hair.” Another inspirational story is that of Misty Copeland, the ballerina who in 2015, became the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.  Copeland has shared with other young Black girls and their parents, what it is like to be “on a journey as a dancer who is young, Black and different.”  Black representation in all walks of life is important. It helps to inspire the dreams of our younger generations. Representation was important to the discernment of my own vocation as a religious sister.  A picture of Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, hung in my office along with my other religious and family mementos.  I was, also, deeply influenced by seeing and connecting with Black religious women through the National Black Sisters Conference (NBSC).

African American candidates for sainthood, from top left: Venerable Augustus Tolton, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Servant of God Julia Greeley,
Second Row: Servant of God Thea Bowman, Venerable Mother Henriette Delille, Servant of God Mother Mary Lange.

Remembering the importance of representation, I am grateful to celebrate during Black History Month 2023, the six Black candidates for sainthood, Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, Mother Mary Lange, OSP, Mother Henriette DeLille, SSF, Fr. Augustus Tolton, Julia Greeley and Pierre Toussaint. Their stories are compelling and their cause for sainthood is becoming more generally known within the Church and Catholic religious circles.  Albertus Magnus College, a sponsored ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, recently began a series about these six candidates called, Saints Among Us: The Road to Sainthood.  I invite you to click here to enjoy the first segment of the series presented by Dominican Sisters of Peace Candidate, Shingai Chigwedere.

I am grateful for another opportunity to celebrate Black History Month and the African American Heritage. For me, it is an inspiring time that also reminds me of God’s continued faithfulness.  I end with this hopeful quote from Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA:

“God’s Glory is revealed because we love one another across the barriers and boundaries of race, culture and class.”

May we always strive to reveal God’s glory in this way.


Pat Dual, OP

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

9 responses to “A Reflection on Black History Month 2023

  1. Sister. I loved what you wrote about “see someone
    Who looks like you” I love the honest expression of feeling comfortable with all the Dominicans. You have a gift and I’m proud to tell people, ” you’re a
    Dominican Sister of Peace! God bless and keep up the good work and being g YOU!

  2. Dear Pat,
    Thank you for this blog which is so deeply personal, so informational, and so Dominican…
    Your years of study of history (yes, Black History is indeed American History) are evident, and appreciated . And this blog, following the presentation last week by Shingai at Albertus, are gifts to us on several levels.
    TY again, Catherine

  3. Yes, representation is important and maybe even fundamental to inspiring greatness. For me, the blessing of Black History month has been the focus on the ‘greatness’ and less on the ‘lessness’ so all can see the possibilities. Hope is a grace for us all.

  4. Yes, representation is important and maybe even fundamental to inspiring greatness. For me, the blessing of Black History month has been the focus on the ‘greatness’ and less on the ‘lessness’ so all can see the possibilities.

  5. Thank you, Pat, for this excellent reflection, and especially for your presence among us that makes us all much better women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.