Boykin wants to carry on the tradition

In celebration of Black History Month, we take the time to recognize and reflect on the thoughts and contributions of members of the Steelers organization. Today, receiver Miles Boykin shares why Black History Month is important to him and how hearing from those who came before him has inspired and touched him.

There are lessons we all learn in life that come from so many sources, but for receiver Miles Boykin, when it comes to Black History Month, there is no greater source than his grandmother, Cornelia Brigmon.

"Black culture is such a part of American culture," said Boykin. "I think we need to relay that to everybody and recognize its importance in the United States today.

"For me, listening to my grandma is one of the best ways to do it. My grandma would always tell me stories. She is turning close to 80-years old now, so she has some crazy stories. She was born during segregation. I can't even remember the whole specifics, but it was her mom or her grandmother who was born a slave and then they were eventually able to leave out of it. Just some of the stories that she tells me really makes me grateful for what I have today and grateful for those who came before me."

The stories, many of which Boykin likes to just keep close to the vest, have been eye-opening for him and given him an even greater appreciation for those who came before him.

"You hear some of the things and it's almost unfathomable, but it seemed so normal to her," said Boykin. "And now, she's just so grateful for everything. I truly think the older people are, the more appreciation they have for a lot of the things they had to go through. That's all we want for anybody. Hopefully when I'm 80-years old, I'll be able to say the same thing to my kids, and my grandkids, that they have been blessed in the world that they live and try to make it better for everybody.

"To me it means everything to hear stories from her because obviously oral history is so much better. The first-hand encounters are better than learning something from a book or watching it on television. Just the little things that my grandma would teach me about how things were when she was growing up. And even when my mom was growing up, how different things kind of were then as opposed to where we are today.

"It's huge to hear the stories because you don't want to forget where we came from."

Hearing the stories, understanding the struggles his grandmother went through, makes Boykin realize how far the country has come. But he is also aware of how much further we still need to go.

"I think we're always going to be working towards being perfect, because there's no such thing as perfect," said Boykin. "Just seeing how far the needle has moved since then is definitely amazing."

Boykin knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the struggles those in his family endured, and that is what gives him the strength in everything he does.

"The same blood that runs in her veins, runs in mine," said Boykin. "She was so tough to be able to make it through all the stuff she did. I'm just as tough now because of her. I am proud of where my family has come from, where my family has been and where it is today. And I'm just trying to carry on that tradition."

Carrying that on means sharing his message with others, sharing his story, sharing inspiration with those who are coming after him and sharing advice for young kids today.

"I would say be proud of being Black first and foremost," said Boykin. "And then try to find ways to learn about your history. Whether it's through their mom or their grandmother on their grandfather. Be proud of the things the people before them did because they're very strong in order to be able to be here today."