Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. — James Baldwin
I wanted my very last thoughts of February to be about Black History Month. As the month starts, I hear chatter about black history month. I hear things like why is it in February? Why is it the shortest month? Why is it only a month? Why do we celebrate it? I think the education system growing up initially made me feel like Black History Month was like a birthday for African-Americans. A month for us to be comfortable in our skin, less tolerant of ignorance as well as more entitled to things. I can at least say that no one taught me that, it was just a feeling.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelo
It was just an implied feeling I got during the month of February. We would watch those dreadful depressing slave documentaries, discuss and write about them. Then proceed to other African-American literature, art, politics, events, civil rights. Education of African American history is important but only focussing on it in February was always weird to me, it still is.
Well lets start with the facts! February was the chosen month picked from the birth month of the remarkable, Abraham Lincoln (emancipation of proclamation) and dedicated scholar, Frederick Douglas. Both working to the advancement of African-Americans. Black History Month started off as Black History Week, theses seven short days started in 1926, by Doctor Carter G. Woodson. He recognized early on that no one could tell our history better than ourselves. Just as Langston Hughes later put it, the “expression of our individual dark-skinned selves.” Long before Black History Week was even a thing, we were Africans. We were kidnapped to what is America now and were enslaved to work for another man success and wealth. At the result of the slave trade 388,000 slaves were brought to the united states between the mid seventeenth century and 1860. We the became African Americans, not technically because we were property. A bill of sale initially brought us over here next to the next man or woman who was also taken from their home land. African-American history has been through a lot of struggles. Sweat, tears and blood have been pouring out onto this earth for years for the advancements and rights that we live and carry out to this day. African Americans have contributed to the advancements of this country in many ways. We have made inventions from agriculture to medicine and science to technology. We could get into more and everything in between but that wouldn’t be the point of this.
“We may counter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” —Maya Angelo
This is why we celebrate. As African-Americans we have come a long way from where we started years and years ago. To know where you come from and to also be able to say the first African-American president of the United States, Barrack Obama, elected in 2009. It’s not just about African-Americans though. It all started with discrimination and as we get further away from it, we began to see more people who stand for the African American rights movement today.
To wrap this up a bit, Initially felt as though the month was given to us as somewhat of an apology to those before us with little advancements to our future here and there to silence us further, as though it was swept under a rug. To me African-American history represents the trials and efforts made over time and we celebrate it to remember and honor the struggle that has gone on for 300 or more years. African American history is American history. I like to think that we celebrate “African American” History Month to remember where we come from as time goes on. Imagine, if time went on without knowledge of where we come from and how we got here. In a world like that our ancestors would have done everything for nothing, it would’ve all been pointless. So regardless of where you come from, please don’t forget where you come from and what your parents and their parents have gone through. Remembering and respecting that can only lead you to continue in their efforts.
Side note…What if you and I were no longer colors? Ironically, I never understood how the color of my skin was black, something I still haven’t figured out. Where was the mix up? Which led me to ask Why do we say black history month? Caucasian people and African or Afro-American people are the only two races that are publicly defined as a color. As if we are completely different types of human being, set up for this discrimination. My boyfriend is Caucasian Eastern European and I am Afro- American. How hard was that? Did that statement alone not describe both our backgrounds and general appearance? Just something I thought about after readily typing BLACK before history.