How I Celebrate Black History Month

Happy Black History Month!

Wait, do people say that?!

Either way, I’m saying it, because I celebrate Black History Month.

I remember as a child, at the beginning of February, my mother would assign my older brothers and I a book to read for Black History Month. After reading our book, which was chosen based upon our reading level and interests, we had to write a book report to hand in to her.

As children, we were so not impressed with this activity. We already had homework to do. What kind of mother starts assigning homework? Can we even call it homework? Is it more like a chore?

But as I got older, I learned how amazing that experience was. My mother acknowledged how important and valuable it was for us to have a deeper understanding of our black history.

Even though I’m of mixed-race and not African-American at all, the amount of melanin in my skin dictates that this is my history.

I have heard a lot of differing views on BHM. Why should we only think about black history during February? Shouldn’t we be thinking about it every month? And why doesn’t any other oppressed group get a month?

If I was in charge, I would ensure that every oppressed group had a designated space on the calendar, as well as all issues that need more support; I fully support awareness dates. Unfortunately, I’m not in charge… yet!

In the beginning of January, my husband and I started watching The Book of Negroes on CBC. I had read the book 2 years ago, as I continued my BHM tradition from my mother into my adulthood… without writing a report. It was captivating but such a difficult read emotionally. I quickly become so overwhelmed by the stories of those who were stolen from their homes, enslaved and had no human rights. As I would lie in bed reading, I would allow the tears to flow freely down my face as I wept for all those who have faced such terrible injustices, for those who fought to survive and those who tried really hard to overcome it.

As my husband and I watched this show, we became quickly enraged. How is it possible that so many people were a part of this? How could any human treat another human so terribly? How did they survive living in these conditions?

A few weeks ago, I went to see Selma with my mother. There were points in the movie where I just wept and wept and wept. Thankfully, it was when the movie was really loud so no one was disturbed by my sobbing. I wept for all those who experienced this movie as their reality. For all those who took a stand so that their voice and the voice of their children could be heard. I wept for those who were blinded by their ignorance and prejudice.

Now I am preparing to read 12 Years A Slave throughout the month (because I don’t think I could watch another movie).

It would be utterly impossible for me to not think about the struggle of the black race on a regular basis. Racism, prejudice and injustices are not of the past, they have lingered into our present.

However, I don’t think my psyche could handle thinking about the plight of the African American community every day. I don’t think I could think about all the bloodshed that happened for hundreds of years to a group of people for just looking different. I am confident that I should not spend my life upset about slavery and segregation while mourning innocent lives.

But once a month, I need to sit down and remember. I need to remember that people spoke out despite the consequences. I need to remember that people took a stand even though it may have led to their death. I need to remember that even though majority of the world was trying to keep a whole race oppressed, that they believed that they would overcome. And they did.

A couple weeks ago, one of the teens I work with asked me if I think slavery would’ve ended if people hadn’t taken a stand. I turned the question on him and the rest of the group. They all agreed that it may have never ended or it would’ve taken much longer.

Black History Month reminds me to take a stand against the things I believe to be wrong even if I stand alone. It reminds me that I can overcome even if people are actually trying to keep me down. It reminds me that I should have a voice even if everyone else is silent.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr

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