February – “Black History Month”
A week in February was designated as “Black History Week” by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for Negro Life and History in 1926. It officially expanded and became Black History Month in 1976, when it was recognized by the U.S. government. President Ford is quoted as having urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Black history is important for all people, but especially important for young people. It is often excluded from the classroom.
1. Some may wonder why do we set aside February of every year as Black History Month?
Well, according to research; Carter G. Woodson and the Association for Negro Life and History felt it important to set aside time in February to embrace the contributions that black people made to American culture. Especially important was the need to not ignore, or lose the cultural heritage of blacks. Much of the history is not being taught in homes, or mainstream society. Therefore, many will leave the educational setting with little knowledge about their heritage, the contributions of many African Americans, and the struggles. It is an opportunity for black youth to see the achievements, struggles, contributions of people just like them. While at the same time allowing other groups to learn about the contributions and to see how it all works together to afford the holistic mindset, beliefs, behavior and notions we often speak of when we want to believe that diversity does exist.
2. As a black person, should you forget your cultural heritage and embrace another?
Black History is about cultural heritage. Woodson once stated, “It is about preservation of the physical and intellectual survivals of blacks on a broader spectrum of society.”
During the launch of the then Black History Week, Carter G. Woodson said, “If a race has no history, it had no tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” I am of the opinion that he felt that this would bring blacks into mainstream America, as well as make others aware of their contributions, while at the same time making some aware of the many injustices throughout the struggles.
Black History is intertwined with White History. American History cannot be taught honestly, without including the contributions of all races. Be it Black, brown, white or other. It is an act of dishonesty and untruth.
While there has been and continues to be debates and discussions about the significance and fairness of designating a month each year specific to one race; it continues to be important because if you don’t know where you came from, you most likely will not know where you are going. A part of looking back is to learn from the past, in order to develop fully in the future.
“The concept of “Sankofa” is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Africa. “Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.”
We’re standing on the shoulders of many who came before us. Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to celebrate diversity, inclusiveness, and raise awareness of one another’s cultural background. Because we only put emphasis on black history during February, I feel we will forever be playing catchup to the many contributions, achievements and accomplishments of Blacks.
We have so much more to learn, and so much progress to share. We only have one lifetime in which to do it.
Karen Clay Beatty, MSW
http://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/ Black History Month, February 2015.
http://www.uis.edu/africanamericanstudies/students/sankofa/, February 2015