RTD commemorates Black History Month
Black History Month is observed throughout February to celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans to our nation. Public transportation and Black History Month are connected in many ways. The leadership and advocacy of African Americans during the civil rights movement were and are integral in shaping public transportation into what it is today.
Black Americans were employed as conductors, operators and maintenance workers in the early days of public transportation. They helped build and operate systems vital to urban life. Closer to home, many Black Americans settled in Denver after finding jobs in the railroads. From Pullman porters https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/pullman-porters to other hospitality industry positions, most settled in the Five Points neighborhood, helping to shape the local culture and community.
Did you know that Rosa Parks’ birthday is Feb. 4? This day is celebrated in the United States as Transit Equality Day to commemorate Parks’ activism and her role throughout the civil rights movement. She was also the secretary of the Montgomery, Alabama, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and is best remembered for not giving up her seat on the bus, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. As we reflect on the giants who came before us during Black History Month, let us not consider Parks as a woman who sat down to stand up one day on a bus, but instead remember her as a woman who stood up every day.
The late Georgia U.S. Representative John Lewis was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. In 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality undertook a new tactic to call national attention to the blatant disregard for the federal law that permanently ended bus segregation on Dec. 20, 1956. These tactics became known as the "Freedom Rides” and were in response to violence in the South used to enforce public transportation segregation. A group of activists from all backgrounds and races rode interstate buses from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee, Florida. Met by violence and opposition, the Freedom Riders displayed true acts of courage as they peacefully sought to end segregation in the South and achieve civil rights for all people. Their actions inspired many.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we also want to recognize the June 10, 2021, appointment of Nuria Fernandez, a Black and Latina woman, as Administrator to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that provides financial and technical assistance to more than 1,000 local public transit systems. When Fernandez was recommended for the position, she stated,“I am even more humbled to be recognized for my dedication to public service and being an influencer in the public transportation industry. I am among a list of great company: highly qualified, talented Black women who have mastered their craft and dedicated their lives to making their areas of expertise better.”
RTD is proud to be a transit agency that holds diversity and respect as values while ensuring no one–neither employees nor customers–is discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local laws and ordinances. Concurrently, RTD acknowledges that as a society there is still a long road ahead to ensure diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for all.
RTD encourages all its employees and customers to commemorate Black History Month. Visit some local destinations to honor Black History Month and use the RTD Trip Planner to plan your trip:
- Explore Five Points, one of Denver's oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. The district was known as the "Harlem of the West" because it was a frequent stop for some of jazz’s greatest artists.
- While at Five Points, visit Denver's Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, one of the handful of public libraries nationwide dedicated to African American research. Learn about African American artists like Sergeant Leonora Hull Brown, Director of the 404th Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II.
- Attend Louisville Public Library’s Discovering the Art of Clementine Hunter, then make your own folk-art painting.
- Attend Black History Month Fashion “Resilience,” a fashion show hosted by Black Pearl Entertainment on Saturday, Feb. 24.
- Support local Black-owned businesses.