WHY WE MUST CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH
By Kameko Thomas
We hear the arguments every February that insist Black History Month is no longer necessary to celebrate, that since Black People can work where they want to work, live where they want to live and go to whatever schools they choose, that consistent reminders of “how far we’ve come” only serve to ensure that we never go any further.
The same harbingers of progress are used: There are Black CEOs, and Black billionaires; Black tech entrepreneurs and Black Pulitzer Prize-winners — hell, there was even a Black president.
Surely the presence of all of these Black luminaries mean that we are long past the need to celebrate Black History Month?
We vehemently disagree.
When Carter G. Woodson established the first Negro History Week in 1926 (which became Black History Month, 50 years later), it was partly in response to being told by one of his former professors, Edward Canning, that “the Negro had no history.” Canning believed that since — as far as he and others were concerned — Black people’s history in this country began with slavery, not only did he already know our history, everyone else knew it, too, and had already decided that because everyone else knew where we had been, they knew exactly where we were going.
In other words, Canning, et. al believed their narrative of the Black Experience was the gospel, and that we were meant to bend ourselves to its arc.
The same is true, today. Thanks to Mainstream Media, the narrative of The Black Experience is one that’s steeped in the same stereotypes and tropes that have followed us, ever since the first of our Ancestors set foot on American soil.
This is a narrative that ignores, or even flat-out denies the existence of people like Clarence “Skip” Ellis, the first Black computer science Ph.D., and pioneer of Operational Transformation (used in Google Docs); Ethel L. Payne, “The First Lady of the Black Press;” and Oscar Micheaux, the first major African American feature filmmaker. This is a narrative that one that ignores the 400-plus year head start — built on the backs of millions of enslaved Africans — that’s helped America become what it is, today.
It is up to US — ALL of us — to challenge that narrative.
That’s why it’s important that we continue to celebrate Black History Month: No one is more qualified to tell our stories than we are. No one knows who we really are, and what we’re really about, better than we do.
That’s the foundation upon which The Union was built, and is part of the legacy we intend to leave behind.
When we celebrate Black History Month, we celebrate ourselves, we celebrate our Ancestors, and we honor the sacrifices they made so that we could be here, today. When we celebrate Black History Month, we respect the legacy of Carter G. Woodson, and we honor the responsibility we have to this great man to move the needle forward ― INTO THE #AFROFUTURE.
So, the real question isn’t “If” we should still celebrate Black History Month; the real question is, “How can we not?”
Happy Black History Month, Y’all! And be sure to check out our lineup for BHM: Afro Future.