The month of February is usually a time for us to collectively pause and honor the achievements of Black Americans who came before us, to celebrate the powerful contributions the Black community has made, and to recognize the impact those contributions have made in our country’s history. At Cinnaire, we believe that Black History is American History. Like many organizations, we kicked off February recognizing Black History Month, but Cinnaire is not just going through the motions, checking the box to recognize a single month and then moving on to another topic March 1st. Since our organization was formed 28 years ago, Cinnaire has been dedicated to the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe in putting people first. Doing the right thing. Creating a culture of respect. These are the principles our company was founded on, and what we’ve been committed to since day one.

Black Voices Celebrated

Black Achievements Honored

Black Leaders Saluted

Black Stories Told

Black Voices Matter

Black Lives Valued

Honoring Black history and fostering social equity is at the core of these principles. Beginning this month, and throughout 2021, we are launching a series recognizing and celebrating some of the unsung heroes of Black History, the often unsung heroes of American History. This year, we celebrate Black History Month by honoring leaders who transformed our country with their tireless pursuit of social justice. Their names may not be in the spotlight, but their impact and their legacy has shined bright. We’ll highlight the events, big and small, that influenced much needed change in our society. These stories reinforce our call to action as a company and continue to remind us how important the community development industry is in promoting social equality.

Events of the last year brought racial injustice to the forefront of conversations across our nation. Our Black colleagues, neighbors and friends stood up and spoke up and asked to be heard. At Cinnaire, we stood in solidarity. We added our voice to the protests calling for racial justice and we recommitted to work and live only in ways built on our values of diversity, equity and inclusion. These are not empty platitudes at Cinnaire. They are at the front and center of our Why. But we can’t stop there. We’re dedicated to supporting and promoting diversity not just within our company, but within our communities and the businesses we partner with. This month, and every month, we honor the important contributions of Black Americans to our history.

Cinnaire’s Unsung Hero Salute

Fred Gray – Martin Luther King once described lawyer and activist Fred Gray as “the brilliant young Negro who later became the chief counsel for the protest movement.” Gray provided legal advice to Rosa Parks, King’s Montgomery Improvement Association,   the local branch and state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Montgomery Progressive Democratic Association.

During the Montgomery bus boycott, Gray’s leadership and legal counsel played a crucial role in the successful desegregation of Montgomery buses. He defended Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks against charges of disorderly conduct for refusing to give up their seats to white passengers. Gray also filed the petition that challenged the constitutionality of Alabama state laws mandating segregation on buses (Browder v. Gayle). In November 1956, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling that racial segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.

In 1970, Gray was one of the first two African American officials elected to the Alabama State Legislature since Reconstruction. Gray has spent his life dedicated to “destroying everything that is segregated.”

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