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The ‘Other’ Aspect of Black History Month

February is special for many reasons, besides the fact that it’s my birth month, it’s Black History Month in the US and other countries and LGBT History Month in the United Kingdom.

Growing up and going back to as far as first grade, Black history Month for me was all about reciting poetry by black poets and playing parts in skits.
Back then celebrations didn’t really go beyond school but through the celebrations I did learn a lot about black history.

Today much of that has changed. Though many of us still engage in Black History celebrations and want to bring awareness to the challenges African Americans still face in society, some people really question its modern significance.

I have to admit that it was a long hard fight for the freedom we have today, from slavery and civil rights to the first black president, and the people who championed change are deserving of honor.

But we can’t ignore the debates and the questions that are being raised, such as:

Is Black History Month and all entities alike, defeating or serving their primary purpose?
Are we engaging in segregation rather than creating a united society?

Going back in history, the primary purpose of Black History Month in America was to emphasize the need for having ‘black history’ taught in schools.
Black History month was also meant to honor the works of president, Abraham Lincoln and Abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, both of whom have Birthdays in the second week of February.

With that in mind, many believe that as society evolves, it’s time for Black History to emerge into the mainstream.
Actor and director, Morgan Freeman has been vocal against the idea of Black History Month… he stated, “I don’t want a Black History Month, black history is American history.”

While I still celebrate Black History, I’ve always found it interesting to contrast the way people react to this period in a society that is not majority black versus one that is. Of course, in predominantly black societies, such as Jamaica, going against the idea of Black History Month is virtually absent.
Black History Month in ‘black’ societies is technically celebrating history. But here in America- in a plural society- one just can’t ignore the social and political connotations.

Another aspect of Black History Month that has always fascinated me is the fact that LGBT Black icons, that have helped to forge a way for us, are almost never mentioned in our history lessons.

This includes the likes of Bayard Rustin, who taught Martin Luther King the strategies of non-violence and organized the 1963 March on Washington. As well as, James Baldwin who was a pioneer in black literature. It shouldn’t be that Black History month is a celebration of some, it should be a celebration of all.

While there is still a worthwhile cause for reflecting on the history of the black race, it is also important that we fight segregation of all forms.

4 Replies to “The ‘Other’ Aspect of Black History Month”

  1. RaiC says:

    Black History Month is def all year long and I feel Morgan Freeman but no, it’s not American history… and never has been treated as such.
    For me, Black history month has def been much more of big deal as an adult as I’ve grown and become conscious. In our community, we like to call it “woke”. Ever since then, the pitiful mild attempts at celebrating our blackness in school is almost something to look back and laugh at now. While I do appreciate and commend the efforts of my schools, I think they could have done a much better job (especially African-American teachers but they probably didnt know any better themselves) at reiterating the true importance of the celebration. Not telling me every year that a Black man invented peanut butter or making us recite the “I Have A dream speech” at every assembly.

    It is most certainly time for Black history to emerge into mainstream society… especially in different avenues other than music and fashion. I do not discredit those channels, as they’ve catapulted our entire existence into something special… turning many of us into household names, surviving our ancestry, making everyone believers and essentially blending the haves with the have nots but of course I’d love to see us take much larger strides in areas that we aren’t as familiar with and start to dominate in professions that make the dollars and serve more purpose to and for the people (More lawyers, doctors, therapists, politicians, etc)

    I think a lot more people are starting to see what it is to celebrate black history and are understanding what it takes. More eyes are open, more brains are stimulated and more people want to know more.

    Thanks for the knowledge!

  2. Kevin A. says:

    Insightful perspective Rai, I’m glad for this.
    I’m beginning to understand that Black History Month celebrations here in America are very similar to what happens in the West Indies.

    In regards to the functional aspect of Black History Month; in developing awareness through schools, sports, music, workplace etc. I can definitely see its relevance playing out and that is why every year I use this time as an opportunity to learn more about our heritage.
    I agree with you that we really need to do away with the rhetoric in terms of how we celebrate and honor our history.
    Reflecting on our past is one thing but how we approach social and political issues is another thing… there are growing issues within our community that doesn’t seem to be doing much for us in advancing change.

    And that brings me to the revelation that we really need to see more lawyers, doctors, therapist, politicians… entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators coming from the black community. The way society seems to portray black culture is not very reflective of the message that we seem to be endorsing.

    African Americans have a rich history and the message we are sharing really needs to reflect our passion for a better future. Which means that we stay within our intentions to live in a more united society and prove therefore that we can do and contribute just as much another race, ethnicity…

  3. Jamie0715 says:

    I love Black History month. African American people gather together and have feasts and celebrations even, The BET awards have celebration of Black History month. Is a great time to spend time with our siblings,. God bless Martin Luther King Jr

  4. Kevin A. says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jamie… hoping that in the years to come we can have more unity with the races and all people.

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