Black History Month: The What, The Why, The How

By Key Beck

Black History Month can be a time of celebration, activism, or even remembrance. It can also cause some to have confusion as to what we are celebrating. Is it black people, black accomplishments, or maybe black excellence. In short, it is all of those things. Black History Month was created to highlight the impact the black Diaspora had on the world from inventions to cultural events. It has a strong history of gaining a deeper understanding of all the contributions black people have made throughout history. Black History Month started out as “Negro History Week,” and it was imagined by Carter G. Woodson and other African-Americans, such as minister Jesse E. Moorland. It is important to note that in our current climate and point in time, the use of the word “negro” is pejoritve and an “in-group” term, meaning folx who do not identify as black should not voluntarily use it. Same can be said for other “N-Words,” that are often used against people of the Black Diaspora.

Black history month started out as merely a cultural holiday celebrated by individual black people, church groups, and community organizations. It wasn’t fully realized until 1976, when the month of February was officially designated as Black History Month. Black History Month (or also sometimes called African-American History Month in the United States) isn't just an American celebration, there are months devoted to celebrating black history all over the world. The United Kingdom first celebrated Black History Month in 1987 thanks to the organized leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. In Canada, Black History Month was officially recognized in December of 1995, following a motion introduced by the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable[sic] Jean Augustine, MP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. (Fun fact: Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.).

There are many reasons why Black History Month should be important for everyone. It not only educates people about the numerous contributions that black people have helped create, but it also uplifts all people by educating them about a culture full of innovation, resilience, and inspiration. For black folx, learning about their culture helps them to understand how their culture has impacted the world. It also gives them hope that adversity can be challenged and defeated. It should also be noted that it illuminates the many barriers that still exist such as racism and white supremacy. So while we celebrated these accomplishments, we must remain vigilant and never become complacent. We need to engage our communities in the fight for racial equity. We must break the silos and start collaborating together with other marginalized communities. We must also educate ourselves on the folx who came before us like Sarah Goode (Folding Cabinet Bed), Granville T. Woods (Multiplex Telegraph) and Charles Richard Drew (Blood Cells Separation). We must support our inner-city public schools and black organizations. We must insist that our kids curriculum contain the history of black people (as well as other marginalized groups).

It is important to recognize and celebrate all the accomplishments of the Black Diaspora. It starts with recognition, recognition leads to acknowledgement and acknowledgement results in celebration. Celebrating Black History Month is something that makes all of us better people because it teaches us to value history and the people who create it.

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