Black History Month is on the chopping block..AGAIN. *smh* Every year, Black people have to justify why we think it is important to celebrate and acknowledge our history. Even some of our own tend to think that Black History Month is outdated. I really want to know why people think Black History Month is irrelevant, or unwilling to celebrate their race (there is only one race– the human race) culture? To me, what makes America so great is the ability to be an American, and to embrace your unique culture.
I guess many people believe since Black people have made it, there is no need for Black History Month. For the most part, we have assimilated into the American culture. We hold elected positions, lead Fortune 500 companies, own television stations and are millionaires. I tend to think that Black History Month has less to do about our ability to make money, and more to do about knowing who we are and that we have the capability to achieve our aspirations. Furthermore, the State of Black America reveals that the majority of Black people still haven’t made it, and continue to face inequalities within education, healthcare, justice system, economic opportunity and civic engagement.
In the world we live in today, more than ever, we need to focus on our positive heritage. When I look at the skewed images of Black culture depicted within the media, Black History Month is imperative. Black culture has been “ghettoized”. It has been debased to the entertainment and amusement of others. Black culture is so much more than this. Black culture consists of our faith, politics, African lineage, art, music, dance, literature, language, attire and cuisine. I am not saying that the images of Black people should only look like the Huxtables. I AM saying that there needs to be balance. Learning about Black history allows us to counteract the less than favorable depictions of Black people around the world. The rich diversity that exists in our culture is deep and beautiful, and our great leaders are inspirational. From Queen Hatshepsut, Olaudah Equiano, Joseph Cinque, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Patrice Lumumba, Mark Dean, Patricia Bath, and the list goes on. And let’s make it more relevant. Who was the first person in your family to graduate from college? What family member opened a business? What family member worked in the civil rights movement, locally or nationally? Who served on the PTA or ran for office in your family’s hometown? Black history is all around us, and it is being made daily.
However, when it comes down to it, each of us are ultimately responsible for teaching ourselves and each other about our culture and heritage. How do you teach your children about their culture and heritage? What traditions– family or cultural– do you practice? At times, I think people assume with our access to resources and technology that children know their culture and history. This is not necessarily the case. Besides, talking to your children about their culture, and sharing stories about their family is priceless. It provides a sense of identity, pride, self-love and confidence.
My parents believed in the importance of Black history and education. However, they knew they couldn’t do it alone, and the schools were not going to help. So from the age of 12 to 14, my mother loaded me and my siblings into the car every Saturday morning to attend a Saturday school called Project Academic Excellence, fondly known as PAX. It was founded by Dr. Norman Marcere. Dr. Marcere understood there was a correlation between academic achievement and self-esteem. It was very similar to the “Self-Esteem through Culture Leads to Academic Excellence” curriculum, or better known as “SETCLAE”, created by educator, author and activist, Dr. Jawaaza Kunjufu. Dr. Kunjufu developed this curriculum to teach children about their heritage to increase their self-esteem and the power to excel. At first, it wasn’t easy getting up early in the morning, and to top it off, miss my Saturday morning cartoons. However, after awhile, I began to look forward to Saturday school (after all, I was a nerd :) ) PAX began with an opening assembly. Dr. Marcere greeted us, and lead the singing of the National Black Anthem. From 9AM to Noon, we attended a math class, english class, Spanish class and a Black history class. This experience gave me extra support to become a better student and to feel good about myself. It fueled my passion to succeed.
I believe that every American should take pride in their culture, and learn about other cultures. I love learning about different cultures. The more I understand, the more similarities that I find such as belief systems, traditions and values. And it only reaffirms my own culture. When we nurture common values and mutual respect of people from other cultures, we cultivate a global community. Each culture has a richness, and one isn’t better that the other. Each culture should be equally appreciated.
So join me in celebrating Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, Asian American Month in May, Hispanic Heritage Month in September and October and any other culture you would like to learn more about.