Black History Month is recognized in February, and it is celebrated in several ways. It originated when historian Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” marked the second week of February for people of African descent to be celebrated. The celebration was extended to a month by President Gerald Ford, who urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
We have seen social media posts endorsing Black History Month, but who are we truly commemorating and why is it important to acknowledge them?
Educating those outside the black community is a crucial part of these observances. Influencers of the past will always be saluted for the hardships they went through in pursuit of liberty and justice for all. Some of these leaders include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.
However, there’s more to this time than honoring our past leaders. A key factor is the African American people who are currently role models to our nation and even to the world — Serena Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Will Smith and more. We celebrate these heroes for the actions they are currently taking to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy: “Children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In the United States, we’ve abolished slavery, ended laws that enforce segregation and elected a black president. Due to this, it is a common misconception that we’ve already read the difficult chapters in our nation’s story; that racism toward African Americans is rarely present in our country. However, this is not true. Contemporary American race relations are still noticeably negative. It is crucial for us to understand that change requires the entire community to come together. This can’t be accomplished by observing black history once a year. I believe that we need to continue our awareness throughout each year.
No matter what the basis of Black History Month’s creation was, it is time for us to reflect on the importance of our history to inspire future generations to make that change.