On an online chat with my former schoolmates a couple of days ago, we talked about our high school motto “servire est regnare”, Latin for “to serve is to reign”. We waxed nostalgic about our high school days and how we loved to belt out this phrase from our school song in assemblies and speech days. It got me thinking about what servire est regnare really means to me: that by serving others, we uphold our humanity, exercise our agency, and reign over our lives.
This Black History month, I’m contemplating the many ways in which Black people around the world have served and reigned, by uplifting their communities and inspiring the world with their incredible vision, humanity, and courage.
Starting (of course!) with our Vice President Kamala Harris, an inspiration to Americans, to women of color, and to people all around the world. By electing this Phenomenal Woman to serve our country, we affirm our values as a nation and demonstrate that we firmly believe in The Truths we Hold. As I reflect on Harris’s monumental achievement, I remember the visionary leadership and sacrifice of other exceptional leaders, from Dr Wangari Maathai, Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Barack and Michelle Obama, to Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Malcolm X (and so many others that I’m unable to mention here).
I’m soaking up the deep wisdom, insights, and creativity from the words of young Black women writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tomi Adeyemi, and Amanda Gorman. They follow in the footsteps of other great women like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, and iconic African writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, and Chinua Achebe, all of whom dare to write in human and relatable ways about the ordinary lives, ideas, and experiences of Black people.
As a proud Atlantan, I’m deeply indebted to the extraordinary legacy of renowned Atlantans like Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. , John Lewis, and a long line of Black mayors who have served this historic city, from civil rights icons Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, to phenomenal women Shirley Franklin and current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. I’m inspired by the racial justice advocacy and activism in this multicultural city, spurred by Stacy Abrams, Killer Mike, and the Black Lives Movement, founded by activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. These outstanding people have all contributed to the freedoms, privileges, and opportunities that I enjoy today as an African immigrant living in America.
In my personal life, I’m filled with gratitude for the fierce support and encouragement of my parents, the sacrifices that they and their parents made to make this life that I live first a possibility, and now a reality. And to my friends and siblings who, whenever I have bouts of self-doubt, remind me and reflect to me, through their own successes and resilience, who I really am. Everywhere I look, I see the remarkable legacy of Black achievement and pride surround and embrace me.
Servire est regnare. By our service, we reign over our lives and our circumstances; we challenge the ignorance and prejudices that we encounter; we create joy, hope, and opportunities, and leave enduring legacies to those who come after us. This Black History month, I’m celebrating the incredible ways in which so many Black people have embodied this dictum with their acts of service and their towering human achievements. Together, we rise. Together, we reign.