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  • Writer's pictureKopal

Black History Month

Every February, we observe Black History Month. We take the time to recognise the African-American figures that have shaped history and built the world we live in today. Originating in the United States, Black History Month is now celebrated in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands.

How did this celebration begin? In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard and University of Chicago trained historian, noticed the lack of representation of his race in American history books and the weak cognizance of African-Americans in the study of America. Alongside Jesse E. Moorland, he founded the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH). This organisation is dedicated to recognising and promoting the achievements of African-Americans and creating a platform for black scholars to publish research in their journals and bulletins. They have shaped African-American history to not just the subjugation of slavery, but the great developments of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world by black people. After sponsoring the first Black History week in 1926, the ASALH has seen phenomenal growth, causing communities, schools, mayors etc nationwide to recognise this. In 1976, President Ford officially declared Black History Month, calling upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Every year, there is an allocated theme for Black History Month and in 2021 we celebrate: “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity”. The ASALH says about the black family, “Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents.” Following a year of hardships, global crisis, and struggle, this year's Black History Month is as important as ever for communities worldwide. Joe Biden, the president of the United States, shared a message to America on this month’s celebration. He reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to fulfilling the promise of equality and justice to Americans. He too stated the launch of “the first-ever whole‑government-approach to advancing racial justice and equity across our Administration - in health care, education, housing, our economy, our justice system, and in our electoral process”. Last year, we saw a plethora of racial injustices towards the black community in America, including the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Rayshard Brooks and many more.

The founding principles of America were breached too often - and the powerful voices of the black community were shut down. This month, it is of utmost importance for not only Americans, but for the globe to acknowledge the talents and wonders of black people. Generations of African-Americans carried burdens of struggle, adversity, injustice and inequity. Today, they unfortunately grapple with the same issues. Their efforts to be recognised were not in vain, and we must come together to bring light to the astonishing achievements and strength of the black community. No matter where you are in the world, how old you are or what you believe - we can all safely affirm that humans should be treated equally in spite of their race. Our gifts and abilities should be highlighted before our colour. We can all educate ourselves on the history of black Americans, recognise the injustices they face, and work to build a safe and inclusive community for everyone to flourish and thrive in their own skin.

Linked below is a list of pages to explore and do your part. We must do better than this and there’s no better time than now.

Action Items

Sources & Further Reading

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