Black History is American History
U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke of New York once said:
“We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness.”
She is 100% correct.
As a Black woman, it’s easy to be discouraged by the desire of some people to erase or rewrite Black History. Whether out of ignorance or malice, there’s no shortage of news reports about those who would ignore our story altogether, who would forbid it from being taught, or who would be so bold as to suggest that “it lacks educational value.”
How dare they. Black History is inextricably linked to American History. You cannot tell the American story without telling our story. And you cannot understand our story without hearing it told in our own voices. Our story, our voices, our perspectives, and our experiences, with all the hardships and victories that came with them.
Is it a pretty story? A lot of it isn’t. Is it easy to listen to or to sit with? Not always. But does that mean it should be silenced or forgotten? Absolutely not. I say we must tell it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly truth. The purpose is neither to shame the oppressor nor to victimize the oppressed. We are talking about an essential truth that has enormous educational value.
Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I say that we cannot change the dark facts of our past, but our present actions can contribute to a brighter future.
We All Play a Role
Black History does not belong solely to the Black community. We – all of us – are Black History. People of every ethnicity, race, and gender have played a role in Black History, and we add new chapters to that book every day. Our actions will shape the world we live in now and the one that our children will inherit. The future depends on the actions we take today.
Moreover, we all have skin in the game and a role to play. When diversity, equity, and inclusion win, we all win – as our families, communities, and even the economy grow stronger. We must act boldly to continue shaping the future of Black Americans by reporting and recording history, making history, and supporting those who are history makers and trailblazers.
The things we say and do matter because they will be a part of an everlasting record. I promise you that people will continue to tell Black America’s story. So, the question is, what part will we play in it, and how will history remember us for it? If you are pondering the answer to that question, I can help you out with…
3 Roles Anyone Can Play to Positively Shape Black History
Since February is Black History Month, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your relationship to and engagement with Black History. Commit to taking on one of these three roles:
- Ally: Supportive Role. Be a helper by assisting in the ongoing effort to achieve full equity in this country. Participate in activities designed to lessen the struggles of minority, marginalized, or mistreated populations.
- Champion: Active Role. Be a vocal advocate for others. Speak up, speak out, and speak loudly against oppression – of any kind. Use your voice to amplify others and shine more light on the efforts of our brave makers of history.
- Sponsor: Full Engagement. Be a change maker and remove the barriers that hold others back. Lend them your influence and credibility to create opportunities, open doors, and level the playing field. Help shatter those glass ceilings for good.
Celebrate Black History
In conclusion, I am Black History. You are Black History. Let’s take the opportunity this February to celebrate how far this nation has come, even as we recognize how far we have yet to go. And to all the allies, champions, and sponsors, I thank you – and I look forward to seeing you in the pages of history.