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Here’s What Altered My Relationship With Black History Month

Here’s What Altered My Relationship With Black History Month

Black History Month in the United States has been celebrated for over 40 years, initiated in Kent State, after being advocated for by Black educators at Kent State University. Since then, it has been observed assiduously without failure, during the month of February ever year.

As a Black African woman, I have always felt more than obliged, yet immensely proud, to acknowledge African-American history and celebrate the African-American people. Because, at the end of the day, our ancestors were one; their blood, that was mercilessly shed throughout the course of slavery, is the same blood that courses through our veins. That being said, it wasn’t until recently that I really began to ponder the significance of Black History Month. I had come across a quote by Morgan Freeman, where he stated, “I don’t want a Black history Month. Black History is American History.” Those two sentences really got me thinking.

I feel the need to reiterate that while I am Black and African, I am not African-American, This means that I have personally never lived the Black American experience, which consequently means that I am constantly educating myself on the nuances of such an experience. Hence, when I began questioning the momentousness of Black History Month, I felt that it wasn’t my place to question something that had become an American tradition, when I was not a part of that society or culture.

Why should Black Americans, who form an integral part of the fabric of the United States, be truly seen for solely 28 or 29 days, and then forgotten? Why can’t African-American history be integrated into everyday life as well as all educational curriculums and systems?

I think my thoughts came from a place of frustration; I was frustrated that people only felt compelled to recognize African-American history – recognize the pain of the African-American people, recognize the social injustice they endure, recognize the inhumanity of the treatment of our ancestors, recognize the innumerable African-Americans who have surmounted great feats – for the duration of a single month.

Why should Black Americans, who form an integral part of the fabric of the United States, be truly seen for solely 28 or 29 days, and then forgotten? Why can’t African-American history be integrated into everyday life as well as all educational curriculums and systems? Why can’t discourses on social injustice, police brutality, institutional racism and unwarranted prosecution be continuously instigated until change is observed? Why can’t talented, intelligent and sagacious, history-making African-American men and women be celebrated all 365 days of the year?

These questions bounced around within the confines of my mind, and I found myself unable to grasp a concrete answer to any of them. I wondered whether institutions simply continued to observe Black History Month as a way of placating African-Americans; a mere attempt at the illusion of racial equality through tokenism.

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If Black History Month is what it takes to remind individuals of the Black American experience and culture, and to respect it, then I will always, always, join my African-American brothers and sisters in celebrating it.

However, I reminded myself that Black History Month was proposed by Black educators, not white educators. And with that reminder, came another: the sheer pride and joy that accompanies Black History Month celebrations. After all, I too shared those emotions.

Black History Month is about owning and celebrating everything it means to be an African-American. If Black History Month is what it takes to remind individuals of the Black American experience and culture, and to respect it, then I will always, always, join my African-American brothers and sisters in celebrating it.

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