It’s one of my favorite times of the year! February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month, (not to be confused with African-American History Month.) It’s a time, similar to Kwanzaa, for Black people to celebrate our history and culture and reflect on the state of where we are and how to progress from here. In these eventful political times, this season of self-awareness and reflection is vital. In order to recognize it as we should, we must first correct one of the sweeping trends in cultural erasure and political correctness. It’s happening very subtly and being suggested under the guise of racial healing and elitism. (It was so difficult to find an image that stated “Black History Month.”) Very quietly, one term is being replaced with the other without any pushback or insight from us. If you are the parents of Black school-aged children or an employee of a predominantly White company, please take heed. Black History Month is not and should not ever be recognized as African-American History Month for the following reasons:
1. There is no shame in being BLACK. Political correctness has no place in the celebration of our collective history and modern-day achievements. We are BLACK, African, before we are American. (Some of us have forgotten this. ) This is just as Europeans are White before they are identified by their country of origin, even in America. (Notice they don’t hyphenate on the census.) We are BLACK whether we are American or Nigerian or Haitian or Dominican or Jamaican or….you get the point. Our Blackness unifies us throughout the African Diaspora. Replacing the word with the term “African-American” simply draws a line of separation between Black Americans and our sisters and brothers of other countries. It replaces pride in our Africanity with American nationalism. This is not the time for such division.
2. It automatically stamps the beginning of our history at slavery. That’s a lie. We ruled and created civilizations all over the world before Europeans infiltrated our land and stole this one from Native Americans and our ancestors. We hail from the most ancient dynasties in world history. We are the innovators of architecture, the written word, mathematics, astronomy, biology, and culture. That too must be studied and celebrated, and it precedes America and its labels.
3. Kujichagulia means defining, speaking for, thinking for, and creating for oneself. We must not allow anyone else to tell us who we are and who we must honor amongst ourselves. The celebration was extended from one week to an entire month and changed to Black History Month in 1976 after the Modern Civil Rights Movement and our reconnection with the understanding and pride in our Blackness. This was when “BLACK” became a popular term of self-identification and awareness. We decided who we wanted to be and how we wanted to be identified for ourselves.
4. “Negro History Week,” was founded by one of our most distinguished scholars, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, in 1926. He chose the second week in February because it fell between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. (It had nothing to do with it being the shortest month.) He was also the founder of the “Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History” before he founded Negro History Week. He understood all of the aforementioned; that Black Americans have had a unique experience that must be studied, but that we are still unified in our collective African history with our brothers and sisters throughout the African Diaspora. It was founded to set aside a time to intentionally study and celebrate who we are and restore a sense of pride in ourselves. This is still necessary.
If anyone was about the life of uplifting our people, it was Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He inspires much of the work I do in educating through cultural empowerment. Just read the letter he wrote addressing the state of history lessons in our schools. He could’ve written it this morning because not much has changed. Let’s honor him and his work by celebrating who we are collectively and teaching our children about the rich legacy they uphold during Black History Month and every month thereafter.
Happy BLACK HISTORY MONTH!!!!