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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.
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