By Judge Pedro Colon, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
This month we take pause to honor the struggle of African Americans across the breadth of our nation’s history to achieve full rights as citizens. Black History Month began as Negro History Week, the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The particular week in February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and was expanded to a month-long celebration during the American Bi-Centennial in 1976.
This year’s theme, ‘African Americans and the Civil War,’ recalls the wisdom of great leaders from that time. As Frederick Douglass said: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
The message is simple – justice should be for all Americans. We have made tremendous strides in the advancement of equality, yet we do remain imperfect. We must do more as a community to bridge the gaps that divide us and fight injustice.
So we celebrate Black History Month as a way to remind us of where we have been, as a society, and also to give us the courage to move forward.
Since being appointed to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in September, I have worked hard every day at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center to make sure that everyone is treated fairly and justly under the law. Those appearing before me often come from difficult economic and family situations, and if we as a community want to ensure that these young children can grow and prosper, we must ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and equality under the law.
As I consider what sacrifices African Americans and so many others have made to fight inequality and injustice, I hope for the opportunity to continue preserving justice as a judge. By living up to the legacy of those leaders who have fought for a more just society, we can create a more just community here in Milwaukee.