Celebrating Black History Month

Black HistoryWell it’s mid February and once again, it’s Black History Month. My Facebook page is filled with historical trivia, accolades and information about black men and women who have done some extraordinary things. I have discovered a wealth of information and have eagerly shared this on my Facebook wall.  My mind has been filled with facts and knowledge about these incredible people, many of whom I’d never heard of. I feel enriched and enlightened.

I know what some people say: “Black History Month – yeah, it’s in February – the shortest month of the year!”  Well, that’s a fact. There are only 28 days in February, unless it’s leap year, and then it only adds one additional day, so it’s still the shortest month. For me, however, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about the days in the month, it’s about the information and the education that is brought forward during that month.

Like so many of us, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the extent of my “Black History” lessons in school. The fact that I went to an all girls Catholic high school probably didn’t help that fact either. In retrospect, I don’t think Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Du Bois or Nat Turner were on the curriculum. I don’t even remember reading anything by James Baldwin, Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou in English class!  How sad is that?  I do, however, remember reading The Catcher in the Rye and Wuthering Heights – both important literary pieces, but not identifiable or memorable for me.

I’ve heard others lament that we shouldn’t just celebrate black history in February, but everyday. I agree! But let’s face it, there’s something “special” about a month, even if it’s only 28 days, that is dedicated to us and our accomplishments and contributions – especially just for us. Segregation, you say? Not at all. Our history was never integrated in the first place. It was never celebrated, talked about, written or taught as a general rule in classrooms. Like most things that we’ve gotten in this country, we’ve had to fight, march, picket, go to jail or even die for – it was called the Civil Rights Movement.  We earned the right to vote and to sit at the counters with white people, but only after many fought and died for it. It was never a “right” that was handed over to us. Like so many other things, we had to celebrate and create ourselves, otherwise there would have been no mention or remembrance.

The Jews tell their children to never forget the holocaust and I agree with that. History forgotten is destined to be repeated (whoever said that is correct). Yet I hear so many of our people say we should just “get over it” and forget the  memories and history and move on. After all, it’s a “new day,” right? Well, it is a new day and I am glad about that. But we must never forget where we came from, how we got to this land and how the daily privileges that we have now were bought and paid for on the backs and in the blood of those before us. That’s not being radical, militant or racist – it’s simply the truth and the truth can’t be an “untruth.”

I am proud to honor and jubilate the trail blazing black men and women who were brave, pioneering, and bold. The men and women who opened the doors for us right now. As a writer, I am privileged to be able to freely express my thoughts, ideas and opinions without fear. And, even more basic, I am beyond grateful that I am literate at all. At one time, not so long ago, I would have been whipped for knowing how to read. I am humbled and thankful for the many sacrifices of our ancestors. Yes, February is Black History Month, but as black men and women, every day of our lives is a reason to celebrate and rejoice. For me, sometimes it takes this month to remind me of how very blessed we are as a people and how far we’ve come. But every day, I am also reminded of how much further we have to go.

So, here’s to February – Black History Month – an indelible and undeniable part of American history.

 

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