Black History Month's roots go all the way back to 1925. Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson conceived and announced Negro History Week that year as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African-American heritage. In our bicentennial year, President Gerald Ford expanded it to a full month, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
We welcome this month as a time to honor those who have created paths through determination, grace, and grit, those who have inspired and influenced, those who have persevered onward and upward. But we should also stop and consider the implications of needing a Black History Month. Thurgood Marshall, first African American U.S. Supreme Court member said, "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute." Our awareness of the contributions of black Americans should not be limited to a single month of the year.
Let us strive to take daily actions that support and honor individuals who have paved the way, who tackled controversary, who suffered, who prevailed, who helped us be who we are today.
I'll part with an excerpt from Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise, which speaks to the importance of hope and resilience.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear