February 28, 2013
G. Woodson recognized a narrative missing from our nation's history
books - the centuries old journey of black people. In 1926 he
declared a one week celebration of Negro History Week which immediately
grew in popularity and which now has become Black History Month.
the 28 or 29 days of February provide a long enough stretch of time to
schedule a variety of events focused on the wide-ranging contributions
of black people to the formation of who we are as a nation.
Schools, community groups, politicians, churches and other groups
reflect on the past, celebrate it and recognize the journey that black
people have traveled from the 1600's to where we are today.
designation "Black History Month" gives permission to celebrate and to
ask others to join in. For black people, events, activities,
speeches and celebrations are a source of pride. They help
maintain and strengthen a culture that stems from many locations in the
world with refreshingly creative and artistic expressions. Black
History is American history. Without the contributions of black
people in its earliest years, America would not be the nation it is
those who understand the significance of celebrating and honoring black
history and, even more, Black History Month, fall primarily along
racial lines. Black people support it and white people are mostly
Question: What Do You Think?
visiting Boston Medical center on February 27, 2013, this writer
queried people comfortably seated in an eating area and behind
receptionist desks: three white people and three black people, selected
at random, whoever was in the mood "to talk."
person was asked: "Do you have an opinion about Black History
Month? Do you think we should celebrate Black History
Month?" The black people were quick to respond, interested in
expressing their opinions and experiences in honoring and participating
in such activities. Each provided a thoughtful answer, all of
them nuanced differently.
the three white people declined to participate: "No." One person,
seated comfortably, said he would like to answer the question. He
seemed to be struggling to find words. In the end, he shared his
inability to relate to Black History Month while thinking he really
should care. "I didn't know this was going to be so difficult to
answer. I thought I would have something to say."
in the day, I spoke with another white person whose answer helps
clarify how and why Black History Month remains primarily a celebration
unique to one racial group.
Highlights of the Conversations
- Celebrate every day, not just one day or one month
- Parents teaching their children is key to an understanding of black history
- History is interesting stories, told by people about people
- Black history is more than just the history of slaves
- Our black forefathers died for us and we must not forget
- Black history offers a sense of pride for black children
- Focus on Black history helps maintain a culture that is unique in the United States
"Yes, we should be celebrating Black History Month but we should be
celebrating it all year long. Black history is part of American
history." Did she think that black history has been
ignored? "No, but parents have an important role in teaching
their kids about black history. Parents teaching their kids about
their culture is all a part of growing up. You need to tell your
kids where they come from and what the culture was like. I'm from
the West Indies, from Barbados. So learning about my culture was
a strong part of my upbringing and this made a difference in my life."
"Yes, it's very important. People in America - we all have our
stories to tell, stories about history and culture." But he
added: "Black history stories in the United States tend to be
only one sided. There's more to our stories than just the story
of slavery." He spoke of the shallowness of referring only to one
facet of the contributions of black Americans to the fabric of our
society. "What about black people's contributions to the arts, to
leadership roles in government and to all the contributors in the many
fields where black people have made a huge difference in our nation's
history. Mostly we hear about slavery. This is one-sided
and gives the wrong impression."
"Yes, we should be celebrating black history month because of the
forefathers of black people who died for the causes of black
people. These causes include equality, respect and
understanding. Focusing on black history gives black children of
today a sense of pride. It also gives them a perspective on who
they are and what they can achieve in today's society. You can
think of black history as continuing to 'knockdown' the walls for the
future of all people."
"John, can I ask you a question? Should we be celebrating Black
History Month?" His one-word answer was most illuminating "Huh?" as if
he didn't know what I was talking about. So I asked him a
slightly different question. "How about Japanese History Month.
Should we be celebrating Japanese History Month?" His
answer: "Same question. Same answer. Huh?"
Black History Month - Taking a Step Towards Full Equality
The black people, who were open and willing to engage in conversation
about black history, seemed to be able to do that because they were
"telling stories" about themselves. Based on their personal
experiences, each person readily identified steps black people, as a
group, should take to self-recognize their importance to the formation
of this country - steps that also help to grow black pride.
Black History is not being given its full due may be important in some
settings (school) but should not dim the spotlight for black people in
their own and growing celebrations of Black History. It's always
tough to get anybody to pay attention to anyone other than
While continuing to explore,
learn, document, celebrate and tell "stories" about their own, their
roots, and their truly unique contributions to this country, the modern
day black groups like the NAACP must continue to move forward to close
the inequality gap.
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
opening sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of
Independence is one of the best-known sentences in the English language
and has come to be considered a major statement on human rights.
While not a "truthful" assessment of who we are today, it remains a
visioning statement of who we want to become (equal).
Abraham Lincoln considered the Declaration of Independence a foundation
of his political philosophy and one through which the United States
Constitution should be interpreted. For marginalized people
everywhere, the United States Declaration has inspired work for their
rights, for all human rights.
will tell. The United States is becoming a minority majority
populace with Boston already in that category. History's
knowledge of itself will stand righted when our country, the United
States of America, becomes what we stand for: equality,
unalienable rights, liberty and justice for all.
Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
(excerpted from the Pledge of Allegiance)
|Posted: February 28, 2013 Nancy J Conrad
Your comments will be posted here and in the Letters to the Editor after processing.