I’ve heard so many things surrounding Black History Month…
Slavery was a long time ago, why do we still need Black History Month?
...I’m tired of singing spirituals…
Can we talk about somebody other than Rosa Parks, MLK, and, Harriet Tubman?
Black History Month is for black people to celebrate, It doesn’t really have anything to do with me...
...You know they gave us the shortest month of the year for a reason right???
I’m not sure if you celebrate it, deem it important, or completely forget February exists aside from Valentine’s Day…but these are my thoughts on the month.
In 5th grade I remember having to do a book report on a biography…this was not a Black History Month related assignment by any means. I think it was either December or January because I recall my mother giving me a white turtleneck to wear under my outfit. In Florida, December and January were the only times it was even remotely cold enough to have on a turtleneck.
I don’t remember there being much debate or discussion about who I was going to choose to do my report on; I just remember all of a sudden I was Barbara Jordan. Thanks Mom! You knew exactly what you were doing. Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, a civil rights leaders, and she had a MEAN opening statement. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate, and the first southern African American woman to hold a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
After reading her book, I remember being excited to put on my makeshift navy blue suit and let my friends guess who I was. Yeah…needless to say, after Oprah, they were all out of guesses. Suddenly, I wasn’t so proud. Nobody knew or cared who I was. We had Abe Lincoln, Cher, George Bush, several others, and then me… Barbara Jordan.
After my speech I felt like Randy Watson (insert Coming to America reference here). Basically, I got two really good claps and they both came from my teacher who was black and “woke”. Even though I was low key ashamed that nobody (all of my classmates were white or Asian) knew who I was, I was still very much impressed with who Barbara Jordan was. After reading her book I felt connected to her; I learned that our birthdays were only four days apart and somehow that meant it was fate that I should be a lawyer. From that moment forward (Ok, forward like 6 months) I wanted to be a lawyer just like Barbara. I probably should have stuck with that plan, perhaps I would be making more money now, but that’s neither here nor there.
In a nutshell, this is why I think celebrating Black History Month is important..
If you are not black, this is for you.
Just take a minute and think about living in a bubble where every doctor you knew or saw on television was black. What if every bank teller, teacher, engineer, nurse, veterinarian, lawyer, accountant, scientist, CEO, computer programmer, artist… what if they were all black? Now, ask yourself if you would feel like those professions would be attainable to you as a non-black person. Ok, even if you felt like those careers would be feasible, would you feel comfortable or would you feel like those were things black people do?
Well, that is something black children have experienced for centuries. For a long time everybody professional was white. Everybody celebrated on TV for their accomplishments was white. It takes a great deal of overcoming, and LOT of encouragement from parents telling you, “you can be ANYTHING you want to be”. Those words mean something totally different for a black child by the way. What if you didn’t have parents that believed you could be anything because of their experiences? Let’s not forget, my parents were born right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, so it’s very possible that people walking around in their 30’s still don’t truly feel like they can do anything they want to do because their parents didn’t.
Some people say this is an economic problem, but we have to remember that while it is true that some black people and white people lived side by side in low income housing, there was one HUGE difference. Skin color. White people knew that given the right opportunity they could eventually get out, because it was something they could physically see. White success was all around them, and there were no laws in place to stop them. Nevertheless, for many black people it was literally next to impossible. Sure, other cultures experience this to a certain degree. However, people of other cultures come to the United States to escape hardship, they come knowing they will be in the minority, and they know they will be underrepresented. They have a “home country” to reference...this is not the case for African American people. We are somewhat displaced, but we have grown to embrace the home we have, and we hold on to the things that make us uniquely us.
If you wonder why we celebrate Black History Month and why we have things like the NAACP Awards, etc. it’s because we HAVE to represent ourselves in places we where we might be underrepresented. Otherwise, those voices that are still reverberating through our nation that say “you can’t do that” will become louder than hope we have that we can. Think about this; there was no “United States” for African Americans escape to (well, there was Canada sort of), we were already in it! No other race of people on this planet have been mentally and physically beaten as long as African Americans and there was no counseling or therapy to erase and heal the extended trauma.
So, we celebrate.
We celebrate how far we’ve come. We celebrate where we’re going. We celebrate our varied complexions. We celebrate rhythm, and food, and music, and our children, and parents, and our movies, and our jokes... We celebrate ourselves as a form of healing and pride. That’s why we still need this month.
Happy Black History Month!
Here are a few ways to celebrate:
Visit Black History Museums
Do some research
Give to black owned businesses
Give to non-profits supporting issues in the black community
Have a party! (don't wear black face)
GO SEE BLACK PANTHER!
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