Black History Month offers lessons for everyone

It’s real easy for me to look at the calendar and come up with something to write, or at least the starting point for something. That’s no different tonight because I’ve been thinking about a flurry of social media posts I saw–and didn’t see– on the first day of the month.

What stormed my Facebook and Insta feeds was a lot of Imbolc photos. This ancient European festival day celebrates the halfway point between the solstice we go through in winter and the equinox we celebrate in the spring. It’s a pagan celebration, but no matter what religion or lack thereof one practices, it’s a day that signifies coming light and longer days. It looks forward to a change in seasons.

I’m not surprised I saw a lot of friends celebrating Imbolc. I have many friends doing the homestead thing, the farm thing, the fuck the mainstream thing. And even my friends who are clearly religious and live here in the Midwest are definitely looking forward to longer days.

And I’m not surprised about the lack of other posts I was thinking I’d see: Black History Month posts. It’s a bummer, but it seems to me that a lot of folks don’t think about Black History Month unless they celebrate Blackness as part of their heritage or their family’s heritage.

Black History Month was born in 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, who had studied at Harvard, and Jesse E. Moorland, a minister, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Originally, Woodson had hoped for a day, and then a week to honor Black culture. Why February? Because it’s the month of Frederick Douglass‘ birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. My calendar reminds me that it’s also Washington’s birthday month, and President’s Day (but the same calendar does not mention Douglass or Black History Month).

I can’t act like I knew all of this before this month; it was the lack of posts about Black History Month that spurred me to read posts about it. I think our present political climate has heightened people’s awareness of the fact that we don’t know so much about some groups of our fellow Americans. History, written by “the winners,” has silenced these stories.

So for the rest of the month, I want to share some of the things I’m finding and reading and learning about Black History Month and the people and culture it celebrates.

First up, on the first, I read this piece from the New York Times about Rosa Parks. Did you know she had been working to combat police brutality and sexual assault for two decades before the bus incident she’s famous for? Did you know she was married to a barber; after her stand for justice, she and her husband lost their jobs and could not find decent work in Montgomery again. Her family moved to Detroit, and she found work in U.S. Representative John Conyers’s office. I had no idea.

Yesterday, my friend Connie made a FB post about the ACE Academy, a private school in Sioux Falls, SD for kids in kindergarten through eight grade. This school runs year round and gives at-risk and students of color opportunities to engage in an academic community that values diversity and brings into the classroom concepts like meditation and culture-based curriculum. ACE is the kind of school that is working to support the real history of various cultures in our society, and they’re doing it not just for their students. This month they’re posting all sorts of tidbits about Black history. You can check out their FB page here to get in on updates, the fun posts and more.

And tonight I read that the Library of Congress is hosting a transcribe-athon Feb. 12-14 to finish a transcribing project of Mary Church Terrell‘s papers or documents related to her. Born in Tennessee in 1863, Terrell was the daughter of slaves. She earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Oberlin College and became a teacher and advocate for racial justice.

I learned of Terrell tonight as I read about the transcribe-a-thon, and I am sure there are all sorts of things I’m going to learn this month. I’ll learn because I’m looking to learn, and I hope in the process I’ll be able to share some of this knowledge with you. I didn’t have a school like ACE as a kid, but as an adult, I know it’s up to me to educate myself in areas I’m unschooled in.

Did you know all of these little info nuggets? Any of them?

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