Even today, eighty-eight years after historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Black History Month (BHM), honoring and celebrating it is still a very controversial issue among blacks and other races. Strong opinions of why it should and should not be celebrated are voiced throughout the year and specifically in the month of February.
BHM promotes opportunities for personal interactions and open dialogue between different cultures and races. When U.S. citizens participate in educational discussions and personal interactions, we are exposed to the experiences and the daily dilemmas each of us encounter as we thrive to make positive contributions to society.
Choosing to honor BHM is a personal decision. I deliberately choose to learn more about my heritage through the best tools I know: education and life stories from elder family members. I research the contributions made by blacks and how they have influenced the culture and history of the U. S. in innumerable ways.
What do I think about honoring Black and African-American achievements in February? I recognize and support the accomplishments of all Americans. I strongly believe these achievements should be celebrated all year long. However, I especially honor and support the celebration of BHM because of our rich past, a past that has largely been hidden from us.
BHM was established because there was so little information written about us in textbooks. Prior to the initiation of BHM, there was a ceaseless resistance to learn about the positive images of blacks. The most popular black history-makers were always highlighted. However, there were also sacrifices made by nameless slaves, servants and unsung heroes that were not highlighted, but they too made noteworthy contributions. Becoming knowledgeable and acquiring a better understanding our past history is crucial if we are to appreciate our current history. The month of February helps everyone to see and understand who African-Americans are individually, as a people, as a race, and most importantly see and understand our contributions to society.
Why is learning about our history so important to me? It is important to me because our history provides me with a more in-depth awareness into my past, who I am, who I can be and a sense of my own identity. We all want to be able to feel proud of our heritage and our own unique identity. The past holds valuable lessons about how to succeed and how to avoid costly mistakes. We define ourselves in terms of where we are going while reflecting on where we came from. History matters. How we view our past influences is how we respond to our present situations and future decisions.
Some of our history such as slavery, lynching, segregation, murder, blatant discrimination and violence are very painful events that happened. Yet heroes emerged as strong positive role models. My ancestors overcame numerous obstacles and challenges so that I could be afforded unlimited opportunities for a better life.
I believe BHM has earned being honored and celebrated because blacks are an intricate part of American history. It is my hope that BHM will always be honored to celebrate our rich culture and our numerous contributions and achievements. In the famous words of Marcus Garvey, “We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world.”