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For the first time in Mayor Robert Simison’s memory, the city of Meridian has formally recognized February as Black History Month.

In concert with the Treasure Valley chapter of the NAACP, chapter President Charles Taylor stood alongside Simison at Meridian City Council’s Feb. 9 meeting as the mayor made the declaration.

Simison seemed to allude to well-publicized racial unrest throughout 2020, saying, “During the actions which occurred during this last year, it was an opportunity to open doors for several of us here at the city and create relationships with members of our community, specifically President Taylor.”

The proclamation, like others made throughout the country, does not bind the city to further action on race-based issues, but rather resolves that “we honor and celebrate the many achievements and contributions made by African Americans to our economic, cultural, spiritual and political development.”

The city of Meridian is taking “what some would say is a small step,” Taylor said, “but I would say it’s a giant step, it being the first time in our memory that this has happened. It tells me that there’s change coming.”

Black History Month, or African American History Month, has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1976.

Taylor spoke to the national theme declared for this year’s U.S. Black History Month — the Black family: representation, identity and diversity.

Taylor acknowledged that, while “the Black family has been described by some as a microcosm of the entire race … the experience of Black families is not monolithic.”

He stressed the importance of this month celebrating the accomplishments of the African diaspora, Africans displaced through slave trading in the Middle Passage.

“Not only is the individual Black family diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself has long been portrayed as a Black family at large,” he said.

Of Meridian residents, 1% are “Black or African American alone,” per 2019 U.S. Census estimates. A vast majority, 90.9%, are “White alone,” and 3.3% of residents self-identify as multiracial. Meridian’s six council members and mayor are all, by appearance, white.

Blake Jones covers Kuna and Meridian for the Idaho Press. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and follow him on Twitter @jonesblakej.

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