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Miami Herald editor: Showcasing Miami’s Black lives is part of our obligation

Monica R. Richardson
·4 min read

When it was announced late last year that I would be joining the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and Bradenton Herald the headlines referred to me as a history maker — the first Black executive editor in the Herald’s 117-year history.

For me this brought with it a ton of emotion, honor and even higher regard for the responsibility I would have not only to the Florida region but also to the many communities who now hold me up as representation. Representation that they thought they might never see.

This is one of the reasons that I was so proud to see our staff take on some incredible journalism related to Black History Month, including this “What your Blackness means” project.

Our coverage has been bold, ambitious, non-traditional and, frankly, necessary.

Necessary to highlight the faces of those with stories that might not otherwise be told. When we highlight these faces, we are encouraging inclusion and we become more knowledgeable of our communities. It’s necessary because far too often people of color and their achievements and their stories are not highlighted enough, or at all. When we share these stories, we are teaching and creating awareness across all cultures, including black culture. I, too, have learned so much from our coverage.

As the leader of these journalism institutions, and as a Black woman, I have been proud of how this series educated and enlightened readers, both those born and raised here and those recently transplanted here.

Only the Miami Herald can provide this kind of local perspective that showcases Black lives. We have an obligation, and it’s part of our mission, to cover and reflect the diversity of the region.

This month, our el Nuevo Herald staff showcased the lives of Black Latinos. The Miami Herald staff profiled some of Black Miami’s living matriarchs. And today, we share the proud history of Longshoreman’s Association Local 1416 and its key role in building Miami’s Black middle class.

You aren’t here for a history lesson — but context matters.

Black History Month dates back to 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans started “Negro History Week.”

Woodson said: “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

Woodson believed that the celebration and documentation of history was integral to the survival and sustainability of any race.

The first official observance of Black History Month wasn’t until 1970 on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. And it wasn’t until 1976 that it was officially recognized by the U.S. government and then-President Gerald Ford.

So now here we are telling the stories of those making history today and recognizing the outstanding contributions that people of African and Caribbean descent have made. It comes this year at an important marker in time. As the Your Blackness project says, it comes at a complicated point in our nation’s history.

The series and the 2021 celebration of Black History Month comes after a year that brought with it a period of racial reckoning resulting from racial injustices that led to protests across the country and where a pandemic disproportionately affected the Black community.

This work is important. It’s our job as journalists to educate and inform, not to be passive observers of the world. It’s my hope that the Miami Herald’s and el Nuevo Herald’s coverage of Black History Month has enriched someone.

We didn’t want to just write about Black people and Black things and Black places because it’s February. To do that alone would be shallow, disrespectful and ignorant to some degree. Black history is history that should be celebrated all-year-round. We will keep sharing these stories and that’s why your subscription and your support matters.

Our goal is to teach a bit about Black history and current history makers, to tell you more about your state, your city, your community, your neighbors, the people who are changing the world and how the world is changing because of them.

We have an obligation to keep telling these stories. It can’t, and won’t end, with February. If you missed any part of this series or other coverage we had for Black History Month, be sure to search for it online or in our eEdition and tell others about it too.