(Every year, my church hosts a Black History Month service, and various churches in my hometown attend. At this year’s service (Sunday, February 28, 2016), I stood up as choirs sung energetically. I enjoyed watching a liturgical dance. I uttered “ummhmm” when a spoken word artist shared her pieces. I listened to the guest speaker as he revealed his testimony of contending with segregation in the South and finally opening up his own animal clinic in the North.
I was impacted by wisdom and compassion from other ministers as well. As I am still processing those moments, I will share the ministers’ word offerings in another blog post.
But today’s blog post includes what I shared at the service. I was able to write a reflection and read it to the congregation. Please see my thoughts below. Thanks for taking the time to read, y’all! -afrotasticlady)
History is bubbling inside me. My veins are thick with the stories of my parents’ childhoods. My parents were children of the South, and they had to follow the insidious rules of their homeland. Rules that dictated to them how they would be Black and where they could be Black.
Each day, my parents woke up before the sun was out. For hours, they worked. My mom remembers the large tobacco truck that she had to climb into. My dad remembers picking cotton.
History pushes my heart. I am awed by the resilience of my parents. My parents have been blessed in their own journeys. Through turmoil, they relied on God.
I am overjoyed by the accomplishments of my ancestors. Through abuse and pervasive discrimination, they created arts forms. They were the masterminds behind popular inventions.
Yet, I am surprised when I hear folks ask the following questions: why do we continue to celebrate Black history? And why is there even a Black History Month?
Learning about Black history is an uncovering of memories. It is a discovery of a people who would not be moved despite their losses.
The noise of opponents of Black History Month should be answered. My response to them: Let us look at the foundations of Black History Month.
Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, created “Negro History Week” with his colleagues. In 1926, the first “Negro History Week” occurred during the second week of February, which happened to fall on the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Nationally, schools and other community organizations had their own commemorations of the week. Eventually, the “Negro History Week” transitioned into Black History Month with several colleges celebrating it in the 1960s. Later, President Gerald R. Ford “official recognized” the month. He stated that the month was “the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (Source: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month).
Woodson was committed to showing society the worthiness of black history. He contributed to opportunities for children and even adults to realize that their brown skin is beautiful. To feel the strength within their bones. To know that there have been courageous women and men who spoke when they were supposed to be quiet. To know that we continue to be a bold people!
To the opponents of Black History Month: please let me inform you about some black heroes. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist who condemned lynchings. She was also one of the co-founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). W.E.B Du Bois, a sociologist and another co-founder of the NAACP, wrote the splendid book “The Souls of Black Folk.” Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin were creative folks who shared honestly about the black experience in their writings. As young people, Diane Nash and John Lewis worked in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) during the Civil Rights Movement. They risked arrests and even death in order to participate in sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches. Now, Lewis is a U.S. Congressman.
My response to opponents of Black History Month is that black history is an American history, an African history and a global history. This history clings to my veins and spins in my mind. Blame my parents for the passion. Yell at the college I graduated from. But do not take away the month.
And when the month ends, I will continue to read about unknown and known Black leaders. I will listen to Black orators. I will pester my parents with questions about what they endured in the South. I will take these facts and anecdotes, and I will pass along this knowledge to everyone.