Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Udall Statement in Celebration of Black History Month

Today, Mark Udall released the following statement in celebration of the contributions of African-Americans to the proud history of Colorado :

“The history of Colorado ’s African-American communities is long, rich and diverse; it spans from our earliest days as a territory to modern times. I think it safe to say that all Coloradans have benefited tremendously from African-American communities’ hard work and dedication to continuously making Colorado a better place to live.

“Last year in my remarks on Black History Month, I made special note of the diversity of settlers who moved west during the expansion of the United States . Like other settlers, African-Americans moved west in search of new opportunity—some to be free, others to become entrepreneurs, traders and leaders, but all played an active role in the formation of Colorado as a territory and then a state.

“A watercolor painting hangs in my Senate office to remind me of the early presence of African-American Westerners. The painting, ‘One of the First’ by noted African-American artist and Coloradan James Wider, depicts a Buffalo Soldier during a snowstorm, reminiscent of a time of great hardship in our state’s early history. For me, this image portrays the struggles and determination of all the people who shaped the West we know today. I am appreciative to the artist, as well as Dr. Anthony Young, the vice chairman of the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center , for allowing me the privilege to temporarily hang the painting in my office.

“And while this painting highlights the early presence of African-Americans in the West, it also reminds me of the countless individuals in Colorado ’s black community who have served and continue to serve their communities, our state and our nation in more contemporary times. I would like to highlight two Coloradans who reflect this influence: Dr. Evie Dennis and Reverend Milton Proby.

“Dr. Evie Dennis rose in her career as a teacher to become the superintendent of Denver public schools from 1990-1994, when she worked to improve the education of all of Denver ’s school children. In 2008, Dr. Dennis was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, and she continues to work in support of communities across the state.

“Reverend Milton Proby was a prominent figure during his 47 years in southern Colorado , where he proudly faced adversity in championing against inequality and injustice. The Reverend served under three Colorado governors and helped to establish Colorado ’s Civil Rights Commission, among many other notable achievements and awards.

“People like Dr. Dennis and Reverend Proby have overcome struggle to serve—and lead—our state. Their contributions remind us of how vital African-American communities have been to our state’s history, and I have no doubt that the same communities will continue to be a driving forcetoward a better future.

“Black History Month is a time for all Coloradans and Americans to reflect on the contributions of African-Americans to our state and throughout our great nation. I encourage my fellow Coloradans to celebrate these contributions not only during this month, but throughout the entire year.”

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