Published on February 25, 2021 in Stand United
This Black History Month has been a time of learning, remembrance, recognition, and celebration. As February comes to an end, it seems necessary to allow ourselves space to reflect on the importance and purpose of this time, particularly in the wake of the year we’ve just experienced.
2020 brought more than its share of conflict, pain, frustration and loss. The deep racial scars and inequity that permeates our community and our country were put on display for the entire world to see. We saw the radically disproportionate impact COVID-19 had on Black and Brown communities. We weathered an extremely divisive election in which elected leaders proudly aligned themselves with hate groups and white supremacists. And we witnessed yet more horrific acts of violence against Black people.
But along with the struggles, there were also moments of growth, awakening, and opportunity. Moments that provide us with a chance to build upon as a community. For all its challenges, 2020 brought with it a reenergized movement for social and racial justice and a greater willingness to discuss and address these issues on a national scale.
We must know where we’ve been to understand where we are, in order to work together toward a brighter future. This is one of the most powerful elements of Black History Month. And as we find ourselves on the precipice of real change, it is more important than ever.
As Americans, we must understand and respect that Black history is American history, and it needs to be taught, understood, and celebrated as such. Each February, we make a concentrated effort to lift it up in order to correct for generations of minimizing, distorting, othering, or outright eliminating Black voices, Black contributions, and the Black American experience from our mainstream historical narrative. If we truly want to confront and correct systemic racism and institutional bias, we must have a shared working knowledge of our full history.
And as individuals, we must use this time to reflect on our own personal Black history and reality.
To me, Black history has been woven through and passed down through the generations in my family. Black history is more than what we read about or celebrate in the month of February, but is about lived experiences. In my family, education was paramount and I grew up hearing stories of my parents and grandparents attending segregated schools. For example, my maternal grandmother was a teacher and attended Columbia University to earn her Master’s degree. At that time, she was unable to attend North Carolina State University because she was African American.
This and so many other shared experiences shaped my world view of education and the injustices we experience as African Americans. The pain, triumphs, and the love that comes through each of these stories and experiences lives in me and has made me who I am today.
Black History is made every day and Black excellence is all around us. Like the story of our country, it is still being written, and every single one of us should be empowered with a full view of our American story with all its challenges and perseverance, ideals and hypocrisy, joy and pain, triumph and failure, cruelty and heroism, unfulfilled promise and limitless potential. Or, as United States Youth Poet Laurette Amanda Gorman so eloquently stated as she made history at the Inauguration of President Biden, “…we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”
As we wrap another month of celebrating Black History, Black leadership, and the Black American experience, let’s be mindful that what do we do March 1-January 31 will shape the world we leave to our children. Let’s dedicate ourselves as a community, to carrying the spirit of learning, equity, and inclusion that we celebrate during Black History Month into everything we do throughout the rest of the year.