Commercialism dictates that the most important event every February is Valentine’s Day. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating love and being in love. After all, didn’t John Lennon once say that all you need is love, right?
But to say that it’s the only February event worth noting, we will have to disagree. More than just an expression of romantic love, there’s something far worth celebrating during this month. It’s also the month that we recall and celebrate our Black American brothers and sisters and all the exceptional things they did that made a significant impact on American history.
This month, we celebrate Black History Month.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is held every February to commemorate and remember all the amazing accomplishments of African-Americans throughout history. It is a time when we as a people learn more about the struggles and successes of our colored brothers and sisters. The fact that Black history is a major part of American history means it is important for all of us, especially our children, to learn and understand what really went on in the past.
We can better appreciate what we have now if we know what took place for us to enjoy what we’re enjoying today. Take for instance the recent victory of Vice President Kamala Harris, or even former POTUS Barack Obama’s triumph.
Centuries ago, it would have been unheard of to see men and women of color in high government positions. But today, America has proven that we have learned from the mistakes of the past and have granted equal opportunity to Americans of all races. After all, this is the land of the free.
How did it start?
Black History Month started all the way back in 1926, just half a decade shy of a century. A man by the name of Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian from Harvard, started a Negro History Week which sought to promote and celebrate the African-Americans’ accomplishments and achievements. This then eventually became what we now know as Black History Month.
Since 1976, every incumbent President of the United States has declared February to be celebrated as Black History Month. Other Western countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom also take a month out of the year to celebrate Black History Month.
The Importance of Black History Month
We’ve come a long way since then. Today, we now have people of color holding prominent positions in the corporate world and in seats of government. From those who process legal documents online to the ones who author laws, African-Americans are realizing their dreams and ambitions.
However, despite the progress we’ve already made, there are still some traces of the uglier parts of history that are making their way to the present day. You will recall that in 2020 alone, we’ve had several unfortunate events that reek of prejudice and discrimination that brought about protests and riots.
History repeating itself is what Black History Month is against. It is all about breaking and countering the ugly and negative prejudices and racist stereotypes that have been ingrained in our history.
This month is dedicated to teaching every student all across America, regardless of age and race, a richer, broader, and unbiased learning of the history of this great nation. For far too long have our black brothers and sisters complained about how their accomplishments, their stories, have been left out of books and classrooms. This is the time of the year that we learn about their struggles and how they overcame those hurdles.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor at Harvard Kennedy, in a statement said that it is not just Black history but American history. He goes on to say that one cannot have a fuller grasp and understanding of our country’s politics, wealth, and democratic fragility apart from Black people’s global and historical footprint.
When Goodson set out to establish Negro History Week, he had two very specific goals in mind. First, to use history as a tool to prove that Black Americans played very important roles in creating the United States of America and deserve to be treated with equality and respect. Second, to highlight black life and history at a time when society rarely took notice of the black community except to dwell on and showcase the negativity.
In his own way, Goodson believed with all his heart that Negro History Week, now known as Black History Month, would be a very potent vehicle for a radical racial transformation. For this reason, we need to continually ask ourselves how we can realign our values to Goodson’s vision for a societal transformation that is free from any prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry.
One cannot continue on to the future without first knowing what went on beforehand. Knowing our past in its entirety opens doors to the future for us all.