The beauty of Black history: Remembering the past to inspire our future
Feb 5, 2021
There are many people who believe Black history should be taught year round because one month isn’t enough or that Black history is American history. While I agree with both of those statements, the reality is that it’s not seen as American history in most mainstream books or taught year round in the majority of classrooms. So we should use this month as an opportunity to fill in gaps, shift understanding and highlight someone else's reality.
We should spend this month shining light on a beautiful and innovative culture that has been denied space in the public arena for far too long. To tell stories that will make waves for months to come because this month will help ignite dreams and a new possibility for many Black children. They will learn about people they should have known about forever, and it will shape how they see themselves. They will realize they can be contemporary dancers, engineers and politicians. They will see that their reality can be much greater than what society or the media has led them to believe.
I emphasize Black children because they are constantly on my mind and are often forgotten in many of these conversations. Of course they deserve us to fight for them to be taught their history in K-12 classrooms, but they also deserve a Black History Month celebration every year that is vibrant, educational and impactful until we see meaningful change. If people believe that Black Lives Matter, then taking care of Black children and ensuring they see reflections of themselves is a must.
This means we must all do our part in educating ourselves and our peers because the more knowledge and information adults have, the more children will learn. Black History Month has to be bigger than MLK, Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall. Their stories are always needed, but so are the many other voices that often get left out through a combination of lazy research and a lack of enthusiasm about truly investigating a past that looks different than what most have been taught.
Learning about Black history as a young girl was incredibly important, and I didn’t realize that until I was much older. Having teachers and parents who were intentional about teaching me my history and making Black History Month a celebration led me to learning about Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey. The impact that had on my life was huge because it was the very reason I started dancing and fell in love with movement. Black history is the reason I explored African American studies as an undergrad and was able to learn from amazing Black professors in classrooms with mostly Black students.
There is so much power in Black children knowing where they come from and where they can go. Being excited to research a prominent Black figure you learned about is an experience all Black kids should have. For many young people, they must see it to believe it, and Black History Month gives them that chance.
Every year Black History Month will feel and look different because of the months prior and what has shaped our society. I understand that many people want to fight for the inclusion of Black history and that 2020 shaped how they view diversity and inclusion. For me and because of my experiences, I want us to remember Black History Month still has value and can still be inspirational. I hope in our pursuit of justice, we don’t blind ourselves by only doing work for the future, but we remember to fight for children in this moment.
While we advocate for change, we must also make time to celebrate.
Let’s celebrate Black history and allow Black children the joy of discovery.