Why Black History Month?
Updated: Oct 29
I love Black History Month for many reasons. In the States, it’s in February and here in the UK, it’s this month and the theme is ‘Saluting our sisters’. So, I got to thinking and decided to write about it this month. I can’t say for the US (although I don’t imagine it being any different), but in British society, people get uncomfortable when issues that minority groups face are brought up in discussion. People don’t like to face the difficulties of others on account that their actions fuel and perpetuate the difficulties we face. Growing up, I would shy away from these conversations, but no longer. Here are the reasons I think Black History Month, wherever it’s being celebrated, is important.
1. It allows society to better understand Black History.
I think when we talk to the general population, people don’t understand being Black and Black struggles. It’s difficult to navigate the world as a racialised individual, and there’s always heavy history that comes with that, but we need to stop fearing our history. There’s so much for us all to learn about each other, and the sooner we start confronting these difficult conversations without backing down, the sooner we can achieve a more cohesive and understanding world.
2. Everyone has a story to tell.
In my university, we’ve made provisions for a ‘Share my Story’ segment where Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students can deliver a 'Ted Talk' style presentation as they discuss their experiences growing up as a member of a minority and open safe spaces for us to talk about what we’ve grown through and how we were shaped as people. Things like this are important to start getting more racialised people to feel listened to and understood in their experiences.
3. We can highlight the nuances of our struggles.
Everyone knows of racism (whether or not they want to accept its prevalence in the world and welcome discussion is something else, but that’s a discussion for another time) but perhaps what is less well known are the less highlight issues. Things that seem so small that they could go unnoticed and dismissed. Like the fact that when we describe Black and Brown people, the b is capitalised to prevent objectification of individuals and acknowledge this aspect of their identities. Or the fact that there’s a deep intersectionality between being a Black woman and how neither the women’s rights nor the civil rights movement accounted for this. Or the fact that colourism and cultural appropriation are born of racism. Black History Month is a chance for us to delve into these especially with the varying yearly themes.
4. It is important to show solidarity for each other.
There can be racial tensions especially when these discussions begin to take place but that is the hate being projected. The least we can do for each other as beings of communication who share this world is to listen and understand each other. Hate is easy. It’s easy to dismiss the reality and engage in willful ignorance but the way to build a better world is by facing the tough conversations and circumstance and uniting.
5. To immortalise the legacies of those who came before us.
Whether or not we are told of this is again a discussion for another day, but regardless: a Black man named George Crum created potato crisps; Dr Mae Jemison being the first Black woman to travel to space; and perhaps one who is extremely close to my heart: Mary Seacole, amongst so many others. Black people have done so much for our quotidian lives, our health, our entertainment, our enjoyment—we must not forget how they changed the game.
I don’t believe in the limiting of Black history to one month a year because Black achievements are today, tomorrow, forever and always but we need to start somewhere, and Black history month is indeed somewhere to start and break into mainstream platforms and start better understanding Black struggle and help Black people better navigate the world.
Images Courtesy of Wix
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