It’s Black History Month, and to celebrate this month I will be releasing a new blog post every week about black history. To kick off this month, I have put together a collection of some of my favorite quotes from great, influential black figures.
Malcom X (1925 -1965) – African American Muslim minister and civil rights activist.
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
“Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.”
“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
“I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.”
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
“Stumbling is not falling.”
“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”
Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014) – Poet and civil rights activist.
“I know why the caged bird sings.“
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.“
“You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lines. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.“
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Martin Luther King Jr (1929 -1968) – Baptist minister and civil rights activist.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019) – Novelist and college professor.
“Correct what you can; learn from what you can’t.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
“Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself, so whatever your grievance is, your face looks just like your enemy’s.”
“You got a life? Live it! Live the motherfuckin life!”
“You are worthy to be seen. You are worthy to be heard. You are worthy to be sat with, to be walked beside. Even in your quietest moments, you are worthy of witness.”
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”
Oprah Winfrey (1954) – Talk show host, tv producer, actress, and author.
“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”
“Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because life is now.”
“Don’t let people talk you into what they think is you.”
“There is a lesson in almost everything that you do, and getting the lesson is how you move forward. It is how you enrich your spirit.”
“No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be, The next road is always ahead.”
“Nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. It’s just life’s way of saying ‘Time to change course.”
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”
Barack Obama (1961) – 44th President of the United States, politician, and attorney.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
“Change is never easy, but always possible.”
“And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words -yes, we can.”
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as subhuman or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people. Such language isn’t new — it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world. It has no place in our politics and our public life, and it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”
“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.”
Viola Davis (1965) – Actress and producer.
“You can’t be hesitant about who you are.”
“Your ability to adapt to failure, and navigate your way out of it, absolutely 100 percent makes you who you are.”
“I know I’m not the best, but I’m proud of myself.”
“Sometimes there is no sugar-coating it. Sometimes you have to challenge people’s belief systems in a progressive way.”
“I reserve the right to be a mess and completely unlikable.”
“When you see what the deficit is, then you have to do something about it.”
“You have two stark choices when you find yourself in a really desperate situation. You can either fold and cave-in to it or you can become really passionate about getting out of it.”
“And this is what was fascinating to me about ‘The Help’; they were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.”
Tyler Perry (1969) – Actor, director, producer, and screenwriter.
“I don’t think the dreams die – I think that people give up. I think it gets too hard.”
“If you don’t want my God here, you don’t want me here either. God has been too good to me to go and try to sell out to get some money.”
“It doesn’t matter if a million people tell you what you can’t do, or if ten million people tell you no. If you get one yes from God, that’s all you need.”
“What I have learned in this life is, you can never be ashamed of where you come from.”
“I thank God for Closed Doors”
“Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lonely.”
“I ain’t going to talk to you until I am blue in the face trying to make you change. I’m going to tell you what’s on my mind and hope you get it and I’m going to move on. That’s what we have to do sometimes–move on. Try to help others, extend your hand, and then help the next. If they don’t want to accept it, keep moving on. Don’t let them discourage you. Never stop doing what you’re doing because of somebody else’s unwillingness to learn.”
“What I’ve found about it is that there are some folks you can talk to until you’re blue in the face–they’re never going to get it and they’re never going to change. But every once in a while, you’ll run into someone who is eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. Those are the people we need to reach. We have a responsibility as parents, older people, teachers, people in the neighborhood to recognize that.”
Stacey Abrams (1973) – Politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author.
“If you can walk away for days, weeks, or years at a time, it is not an ambition, it’s a wish. Wishes feel good and rarely come true. Ambition, on the other hand, fuels your days and refuses to be ignored. It challenges your sense of self and fulfills your sense of wonder.”
“We all set our sights on jobs we want, titles we covet. But, like dating the wrong person, we have to learn to understand what is truly for us and be willing to break up to find the real thing.”
“Effective leaders must be truth seekers, and that requires a willingness to understand truths other than our own.”
“Good leaders are always at the ready, but not always at the front.”
“My being a black woman is not a deficit. It is a strength. Because I could not be where I am had I not overcome so many other barriers. Which means you know I’m relentless, you know I’m persistent, and you know I’m smart.”
“Because I learned long ago that winning doesn’t always mean you get the prize. Sometimes you get progress, and that counts.”
“We must use words to uplift and include. We can use our words to fight back against oppression and hate. But we must also channel our words into action.”
“The most significant successes come from letting your light shine, embracing failure, and getting good at being wrong.”
Of course, I couldn’t help but to include some of my own quotes.
Braylon Williams (1999) – Student at Evangel University, travel agent, and creator/host of Digging Deep Podcast.
“My life is not what I Imagined it to be. It’s Greater.”
“THIS MUST BE THE PLACE! This must be the place where I find rest and see things change. This must be the place where relationships are made. This must must be the place of blessing. This must be the place where I learn to trust God more. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE!”
“When I started my counseling sessions I was thinking about how the sessions could bring clarity to my life; however, by the end of my counseling sessions I was thinking about rest, the power it holds, and how important it is take a pause in the moment.”
“In 2019 trusting God was my second-hand knowledge, but now in 2020 it has become my revelation and I’m seeing it in action each and every day.”
“I read this and was immediately reminded that faithfulness to God is tested when everything in life goes to shambles.”
“Shut up and stop complaining if you aren’t going to take an initiative to change the situation.”
“In order to progress in life, you must move forward into trying new things. You can’t progress in life by going backwards or staying in neutral.”
“So, this Black History Month, I urge everyone – inside and outside the black community – to not think of it as just another month, but as a celebration to our freedom and to be thankful for those who have paved to way for us to be where we are today. I also challenge every white and non-black person to listen with intentionally and respect when a black person begins to talk about Black History Month, do not try to change the conversation because you feel uncomfortable talking about it – sacrifice your moment of uncomfortableness for the many years that we as black people spent being uncomfortable.”