The Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of Association for the Study of African American History (ASALH) is one of many across the country that are celebrating the 2019 theme of Black Migration and recognizing the 400th anniversary of the 1619 arrival of the first slave ships to America that moored in Jamestown, Va. Our local chapter represents the past, present and the future of the African American presence on the Island. Chapter members and all of us have much to be proud of as we look back and contemplate the future.

The past few years has seen the recognition and resurgence of participation of black women in public life and in the life of the nation. The recognition that black women voted overwhelmingly for Hilary Clinton in the presidential election of 2016 and in delivering the Alabama senate seat to Doug Jones in 2017, replacing Jeff Sessions who was appointed United States Attorney General, were early examples. In the 116th Congress seated on Jan. 2, diversity was the order of the day. Thirty five new female lawmakers took seats in the House, bringing the total number of women to a record of 124, up from 107 in the last Congress. Thirteen of the newly elected female representatives are non white, including frequent Oak Bluffs visitor Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. I had the pleasure of attending the ceremonial swearing in of the Congressional Black Caucus that will be serving in the 116th Congress, including Pressley. She was recognized along with Lauren Underwood from Illinois, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, Jahana Hayes from Connecticut and Lucy McBeth of Georgia.

Congresswoman Pressley has not been the only visible national figure that comes to the Vineyard to share in our special inclusive culture. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams visited us last August. Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris has come for the past three years. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms bought a cottage in Oak Bluffs a few years ago. Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee has come for many summers over the years. Valerie Jarrett has been coming for decades, and of course First Lady Michelle Obama has been coming since at least the summer of 2004. But these and other woman are part of a historic narrative of accomplished and activist women that have come to the Vineyard for over 100 years. Henrietta Shearer, Dorothy West, Lois Mailou Jones, Della Hardman, Barbara Houtmann, Mary Hill Tucker, Millie and the Three Sisters, Francine Kelly, Esther Burgess, Nancy Hodgson Whiting, Virginia Mazer, Polly Murphy, Nancy Smith and Margaret Lillienthal, Lucy Durr Hackney and of course Charlayne Hunter Gault, all are part of this tapestry of activist women.

As we look to 2019 and beyond I am confident that the Vineyard will continue to provide a comforting place of rest, rejuvenation and service for women who are determined to make America a more perfect Union.

A big shoutout to longtime Oak Bluffs summer resident Spike Lee for winning the Oscar for the best adapted screenplay for his hit movie BlacKkKlansman. He was decked out in a purple Ozwald Boateng suit paying homage to his friend Prince and custom gold Air Jordan 3 footwear. When you see him this summer, thank him for his many years of professional gifts in film encouraging the nation to see some “uncomfortable truths.”

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!