It’s February…which indicates it's another Black History Month. And, I am confident that if I were to ask anyone today what the theme is for this year, maybe 2 people would know... and seeing as though it’s 2018, I can’t help but to question why we haven’t transitioned into learning about Black history all year instead of having the shortest month of the year to celebrate the same exact people that America recognizes as "Black heroes": the ones that are often fetishized and the ones we often fail to humanize.
And, I don’t want to come across as pessimistic because I am always very excited when it is that time of year…but I just can’t help but to feel very indifferent. Why aren’t we talking about this every day? Why is Black history separated from American history? And why aren’t we exploring the countless individuals that attributed to our history and culture outside of the normalized individuals we always celebrate?
It seems so hard to celebrate Black History Month when we are rarely exposed to it throughout the American educational system, or on t.v., or anywhere. It’s like I gotta work extra hard to find artifacts and time capsules of Black history. Carter G Woodson established Negroe History Week in 1926 because, simply put, Black folks weren’t being recognized at all whatsoever, which doesn’t really come as a surprise, seeing as though era was fresh from slavery. I mean, I can see why in 1926 it was pertinent to begin celebrating all of the undermined and underwritten accomplishments of Black people during that time, because white folks were “Elvis-ing” our people.
Granted, Black History Month was then proposed by black educators and the Black United Students of Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State in February. Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated nationally, where President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
You see, I love Black history. I constantly crave exposure to Black culture in all facets: music, travel, technology, creations. I want to know more about how our people sustained our Africanism when they were brought to this continent, and how they built up the American Dream on their backs.
I cherish the stories of the modern-day, rarely discussed Black “heroes” that continuously chipped away at America’s institutionalized systems: I admire Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, the 15 year old, who in 1957, was the first black student to attend previously all white school, Harding High in North Carolina. I admire Thomas L. Jennings, who in 1821, was the first Black to receive a patent in the U. S. I admire Dr. Henry T. Sampson, who in 1971, invented the gamma-electric cell that stabilized the first cellphone. I admire Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmitt Till, who tirelessly fought for 45 years to ensure what happened to her son was never done again. I admire Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. I admire Victor Hugo Green, who from 1936-1966, compiled safe zones through the compilation of an annual guidebook for African-American road trippers, commonly referred to simply as the Green Book. I admire Annie Turnbo Malone, I admire Claudette Colvin, I admire Diane Nash, I admire Septima Poinsette Clark, I admire Fannie Lou Hamer, I admire Bayard Rustin, I admire the Soledad Brothers, I admire Steve Biko, I admire…
But, as I admire those who are still working tirelessly to make a name for my community and history, I am wishful that Mr. Woodson established this month as an outcry to America that, NEWSFLASH, we are NOT going anywhere…RECOGNIZE and appreciate our contributions to this foreign place we didn’t ask to come to. I am hopeful that Mr. Woodson saw this as a stepping stone to shift America’s hegemonic rhetoric to be more inclusive and factual around that of people of color, especially Black people...
This past year alone has proven why that, now more than ever, it is important to KNOW, why it is important to hold BHM so near and dear to us, and to preserve our culture and our history and share it every day within our circles: during daily dialogue with our friends, our family, our sometimes naïve and very ignorant classmates & coworkers…
I look at this BHM as a double victory, as dubbed by the Tuskegee Airmen. A double victory in essence, because, we are still fighting to be recognized outside of what America stigmatizes us to be, we are also still fighting the legitimacy of our essence, of our belonging in a country that never wanted us to begin with.
So, Happy Black History Year, because I refuse to let February come and go as if it were just another holiday, as if it were a burden to continue to celebrate the legacy of my ancestors. I refuse to not challenge, daily, the systems set in place that idly & illy represent my history, OUR HISTORY. And as President Ford urged us to take the time to honor the constantly neglected accomplishments of our kind, I URGE us to do so every day, not just February.
I’m not just celebrating this in February. I’m black 365 days of the year.