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Emerging Historians: A Personal Reflection on Black History Month

Someone recently asked me, “Are you able to show up to work as your authentic self?” My response was, “I can now.” 

You see, it was not until I gave myself permission to be authentically me that I could walk in that truth. The moment I decided to live each day unapologetically Black and made a commitment to show up at work as my authentic self, it was no longer something I had to choose to do—it became who I am, and I refused to show up any other way. It became my top priority and I now feel a responsibility to do so. 

Empowering the City Year community to emerge as leaders  

As I have encountered City Year San Antonio AmeriCorps members, staff, and even applicants, I have realized the impact I have on others by simply being a Black man on the Senior Leadership Team. My ability to move and operate authentically gives others permission to do the same. The people I work with are emerging historians within the realm of not just Black History, but American History. As a leader, one of my most cherished responsibilities is to identify, develop, and support these young, emerging historians that are and will continue to add to the rich legacy that, for so long, has only been half told. 

This year, Black History Month hits differently. On a personal level, I take this year as a direct challenge to initiate an unrelenting onslaught of Black Excellence within my own life. The audacity to show the world the beauty, diversity, and power that lies within a people fuels both my personal and professional journey. This audacity pushes and influences who I am and how I move as the Managing Director of Impact at City Year San Antonio.  

Leading as my authentic self speaks more to my position as a leader than a title that designates my day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. When I think about our awesome AmeriCorps members, phenomenal Team Leaders, and incredibly talented staff, it becomes clear that I am under a daily charge to intentionally broaden the path forward, allowing the world to be transformed. I am a steward and facilitator of greatness. It is my immense joy to cultivate and see leaders emerge within the City Year community. 

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Read more on a Black history lesson from the Civil Rights Era from a City Year Detroit AmeriCorps member.


Honoring Black History Month

Many will attempt to celebrate and observe our history and contributions within 28 short days, but I choose to live a life that goes beyond just one month. I choose to live as one who has answered the call to be a bridge-builder, a source of knowledge and information, and a loyal advocate to the absent. I often find myself at tables within rooms where people who look like me are not represented. I am committed to making space at those tables and creating a blueprint for how to access those rooms, especially for those who see themselves represented in me.  

I am keenly aware that there is a much larger role I play than just merely a member of San Antonio’s Senior Leadership Team. I am a contributor to what the future will see when the world considers Black historians and I take this responsibility seriously. 

Empowering a new generation of leaders 

We are eternally grateful for the historical giants upon whose shoulders we now stand. We celebrate our City Year AmeriCorps members and City Year staff. They are trailblazers who will play a pivotal role in who we will be, what we will do, and all that we can achieve as a people. As I revere and acknowledge all the rich history and contributions my people have made to the world, I cannot help but sit in great expectation of a generation that is bolder, more outspoken, and has more audacity than we have seen before. It is an honor to fire up and inspire this next wave of history-makers who are already participating in the most sacred mission of pouring into the next generation through City Year’s important work. 

Passing on the torch

This year’s celebration of Black History finds me in deep reflection of the past, observant of the present, and in daily examination of how I am navigating within my sphere of influence and impact. I am holding myself accountable for the things that I can do to affect change for individuals who identify with me and whom I represent. 

As I think about whether I can show up as my authentic self, I recognize that it is incumbent on me to do so. Only then can I pass this torch to the next wave of historians and enable them to be well-positioned to contribute to this beautiful journey by being their authentic selves and encouraging the students we serve to do the same. 

Learn more about our equity work


Jeff May is the Managing Director of Impact for City Year San Antonio. He has been an advocate for youth and educational equality for over a decade. Jeff has dedicated his life to ensuring that education is equitable, fair, and accessible for all students. He has a passion for youth engagement and building authentic relationships with young people, implementing restorative practices, social-emotional interventions, and closing the achievement gap. 


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