As Black History starts to come to an end, I always want to reflect on what I’ve learned throughout the month, and what I am willing to take with me for the rest of the year. Why? Because everyday, Black history is 24/7. Learning brings the lessons to it, and celebrating brings the love for it.
The more that Black history is being made, there are so many names that are hidden in history. We know the normal names such as, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks right? Yes, they did amazing things, but I know that there are so many more names that are in the shadows but not in the books like Althea Gibson, Claudette Colvin, Howard Thurman, Gordon Parks. There are also events and landmarks that are unknown like Black Wall Street, the origins of Black History Month, unknown people being the first. The more that history goes unnoticed, the more that we don’t learn from our past.
My culture has shown what struggle and perseverance is. What happens when you keep going, even though the world says otherwise. As I look at how far the African American community has come and where we’re going, there has been progress, but of course there’s still more work to be done. And the first step is to start a conversation.
The most interesting thing that happened to me at work is the way people speak to me about my history, and my culture. Especially during this month! So as I was helping a student, I mentioned to the student that I was a writing major as well. I even mentioned to him that Black literature was my thing. Then he responds, “Can I say something, and please don’t take any offense to it?” Now if you are a person of color, and someone says that, you know in your thoughts are, “Here we go.” He mentioned how African tribes put African Americans in slavery as a form of hate. Then he attempted to give me a history lesson about my people and my culture. And of course he mentions how he agrees with the Black Lives Matter movement, but how he thinks that all lives matter too. But that wasn’t my favorite part. The highlight of that entire conversation was how he mentioned that he was not white. He’s European. In my head, I wanted to say, “Dude. You’re white.” But of course, I had to maintain my professionalism.
I share this story because we are in a month where we are celebrating our culture and history, but there’s always someone who’s willing to justify their existence. As much as I wanted to kick him out of my office, and tell him to never return, how will I learn from that? That just taught me that your Black is beautiful. No one should try to invalidate your history, and why your life matters. Embrace those types of people as a lesson to why your ancestors fought and died to make sure that you have a better life. Learn and celebrate who you are, where you come from, and where you are going.
Black History Month? No. Black History 24/7.