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The “Why” Behind Black History Month

The “Why” Behind Black History Month

As a young first generation immigrant from Haiti, I grew up believing that I was disconnected from Black History in America.

My earliest memories of the historic Black History Month, consisted of pictures of old Black People who seemed important yet unrelatable.

Though early on, it was impressed upon me to revere Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and others who fought for the disenfranchised African Diasporian in America...the concepts were still abstract to me.

Martin Luther King had a dream, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus and Harriet Tubman helped slaves to escape through the Underground Railroad...

BUT...

What was a slave? What was so special about the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King?...And what was wrong with sitting at the back of a bus?

What did all of this MEAN?

In 1926, African American Historian, Carter G. Woodson announced Negro Week, to coincide with Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. To Woodson, teaching Black History was essential to the physical and intellectual survival of the race in order to stave off it’s extinction.

In other words, in order to retain a sense of relevance within ourselves, a strong sense of our identity in a positive capacity, our collective self worth, and value to others outside of our communities, race and — most of all — hope for our future, it was imperative that we be reminded of past accomplished impossibilities.

That is why I believe that the “why” of Black History Month is not emphasized enough. The why should be the relentless focus. The “why” provides a sense of connection to a five year old. It provides a full textured view to future generations. The “why” provides context to allies.

Why should we maintain a sense of relevance within ourselves? This subconsciously encourages our sense of worthiness, that we have at least as much a shot at life as the next human being and we deserve to thrive simply because we are.

Why should we have a strong sense of positive identity? This gives us hope for the future, that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to — we are not the cursed race.

Why do we need a strong sense of racial identity? To know that we are all indeed equal to each other; different, unique, but intrinsically equal.

This all gives us hope for a bright future where everyone contributes to society at maximum capacity. Hope that we don’t need to rely on old bad behaviors because we are all better than what we were made to believe in the past.

Why is African American History so important to us all? It continually reminds us that we do belong and have always provided important contributions to societies worldwide.

Rachel Taillefer is a poet and writer who focuses strongly on spiritual and mental wellbeing.