Written by Namon Pope.
I’m always conflicted when Black History Month comes around. Of course I love learning and talking about the achievements made by Black people, but I wish that it were commonplace for us to talk about them all year long and not just during the shortest month of the year. The very fact that we have a Black History Month tends to put the idea in our minds that we should only recognize the contributions of Black Americans at one specific time of the year. There’s always the feeling that we’ll talk about Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. for 28 days (or 29 if we’re lucky), and then our quota is filled.
The year 2020 was one of the loneliest years that many of us have ever experienced. The deaths of brothers and sisters like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the injustices committed against those like Jacob Blake, left many Black Americans looking for support. I found myself thinking, “My White friends have told me that they love me, but if it were me or my family on the news, would they fight for me?” That’s not a good place to be.
After all the grief, pain and loneliness of 2020, we all deserve a chance to breathe and be joyful. Instead of going down the path of racial reconciliation by only talking about how much of a burden being Black in America can be, we have to balance that by appreciating the beauty that is present within Black men and women.
Until the day comes that Black history is celebrated all year round by all people, we can either choose to be upset about the limited time we have, or to take advantage of it as best we can. So instead of complaining this month, I’m choosing to celebrate to the fullest.
If you ask me, there is so much about Black culture that deserves celebration — the hairstyles, fashion, art, worship styles and so much more — and it all has its origins in Black history. So, when we celebrate these aspects of the culture, we are celebrating the history behind them as well.
This month, you’ll see the Black Student Association working to highlight Black culture and history right here on Harding’s campus. We’ve partnered with the University to film videos that will show how students are making history and bringing Black culture to new parts of campus, and we’re organizing an event at the end of the month to showcase various types of Black art. But the celebration of Black culture and history won’t stop in February — we’ll be celebrating all semester long.
Black History Month isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s not even the goal. Ideally, we would teach and talk about Black history — as well as the history of every other group that has made this country what it is today — in the same way we teach and talk about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But until that day comes, we celebrate February’s arrival as best we can.
For those who don’t know much about Black history beyond MLK and Rosa Parks, I would encourage you to dig deeper this month and learn some things you didn’t know before. Do your best to be curious about the world and try to understand why things are the way they are. Read a book. Watch a movie. Read an article or two. Talk to a friend about their family’s history and compare it with your own experience. And for those who are a part of the culture and history, let’s celebrate.