As a black person, I’ve consistantly heard us say that Black History Month is the “Shortest month of the year”. It’s a lighthearted comment about the 28 days dedicated to Black History Month. But underneath the humor lies a truth we sometimes overlook: Black history deserves far more than just a single month.
The story of Black History Month stretches back to 1926, the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson. Deeply aware of the erasure of Black experiences from mainstream narratives, Woodson launched “Negro History Week,” selecting the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. His mission? To spark national conversations about Black contributions to American society, fostering pride and countering prejudice.
Over the years, Negro History Week blossomed into Black History Month in 1976, gaining official recognition and expanding its reach. While the reasons for choosing February have evolved, the core purpose remains: to illuminate the often-overlooked contributions of Black people to our world.
However, remembering Black history cannot be confined to a single month or reduced to a quick joke. It demands a deeper engagement, an immersion in the rich tapestry of Black experiences, exploring the triumphs and struggles that have shaped our world.
This commitment goes beyond acknowledging a few iconic figures. It’s about exploring the untold stories, celebrating the unsung heroes, and amplifying the voices that have been silenced for far too long. While celebrating Black history month is crucial, our responsibility extends far beyond February. Here are some tangible actions we can take to honor Black contributions and advocate for racial justice, every single day.
- Seek out diverse voices and perspectives: Read books by Black authors, watch documentaries about Black experiences, and listen to podcasts hosted by Black creators. Explore topics beyond slavery and civil rights, delving into contributions in science, art, literature, business, and everyday life.
- Support Black educational institutions and initiatives: Donate to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), museums, and cultural centers dedicated to preserving and sharing Black history.
- Engage in critical conversations about race and racism: Challenge yourself and others to confront biases, learn about systemic inequalities, and work towards dismantling them.
- Attend events and celebrations of Black culture: Support and participate in local festivals, art exhibits, concerts, and other events that showcase Black talent and creativity.
- Amplify Black voices on social media: Share the work of Black artists, educators, activists, and entrepreneurs. Use your platform to advocate for racial justice and promote diverse perspectives.
- Celebrate Black holidays and observances: Learn about and participate in celebrations like Black History Month, Juneteenth, Kwanzaa, and others that honor the history and achievements of Black people.
- Support Black-owned businesses: Seek out and patronize businesses owned by Black people, helping to build economic empowerment within the Black community.
- Get involved in organizations working for racial justice: Volunteer your time or donate to organizations fighting against discrimination, promoting fair treatment, and advocating for equality.
- Speak out against injustice and discrimination: Challenge racist remarks and behaviors, advocate for fair treatment in your workplace and community, and stand up for those facing discrimination.
- Educate yourself and others about Black history and current issues: Stay informed about contemporary challenges and opportunities facing the Black community, advocating for policies that promote equity and justice.
Remember, these are just a few starting points. True commitment involves ongoing learning, active celebration, and consistent action towards creating a more just and equitable society for all. Let’s strive to make every day a celebration of Black contributions and a commitment to building a future where Black history is not just remembered, but actively honored and built upon.
Recently, When We Speak TV had the privilege of attending the Bounce TV presentation of the insightful documentary Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black and White. This experience served as a powerful reminder that celebrating Black history is not a seasonal obligation; it’s a continuous journey of learning, engagement, and action.
So, let’s move beyond the jokes and delve deeper. Watch the documentary, Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black and White, and celebrate the Black heroes who have paved the way. This month, and every month, let’s commit to understanding and appreciating the profound contributions of Black people to our world.