This is February, Black History Month. The genesis of Black History Month was in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, the historian, author and journalist started Negro History Week. The week was later expanded to Black History Month in 1976. (This year marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States’ independence.) Today Black History Month is recognized internationally by Canada, the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands.
There are many who feel strongly that Black History Month, or the recognition of contributions made by people of African descent to the building of America should not be limited to just one month. I count myself among those who think that way. I also feel strongly that no segment of a population should be relegated to a week or month-long celebration in the history of a nation.
Have you looked at the calendar lately and noticed the number of month-long recognitions that have been set aside for groups in our society? We have Women’s History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, just to name a few. As with any good thing, there are those who beg the question why. Why do we have to have these special months to recognize anyone? After all, we’re all American, aren’t we?
Of course, we’re all Americans, but have we all been treated as such. Have we all been recognized in the normal course of activities that keep a country operating? History has a habit of telling their story and not all of our story. Annals are usually the compilation of records kept for the general society buy those in power; those who operate the financial institutions, the government, the mainstream cultural institutions, even the mainstream religious institutions. Without access to mainstream outlets, some folks cannot easily influence the telling of local, national and international stories.
All people have a need to be recognized for their contributions, some more than others. All people of every nation have made some amount (often major) of contribution to the development of the whole. Would America be what it is today without the “American Pie” having ingredients from descendants of people stolen from the continent of Africa, Native Americans, Latinos from Central America, women who stood beside men at every pioneering venture, Chinese who labored to build miles of railroads to expand the country westward?
If you ever find yourself asking why do they need a month set aside to remember and celebrate their groups contributions, honestly answer: America is a vast, beautiful country that in no way could have become what it is today without the invaluable contributions of native people, immigrants and kidnapped individuals. Our all-inclusive story should be told 24/7, not just during special months of the year. An informed conscience just might be an effective glue for cementing what appears to be increasing cracks in the American social fabric.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.