DeAnna Giles – Opinion Columnist
This year marks 45 years since Black History Month became nationally recognized, but more schools have lost sight of the importance held by this historical month. Originally known as African American History Week in 1926, Carter G. Woodson wanted this month to be a celebration of a people that many in this country at the time believed had no place in history, an entire month dedicated to learning about Black contributors and advancements. I guess we should leave this month for those directly impacted. Oh wait, that is everyone.
Black history continues to contribute to our current society and how we became a nation. I am sure you have heard how the past dictates the future, why not intentionally learn a different perspective for at least one month out of the year. “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Former President Gerald R. Ford said.
“ America had the privilege of being led by the 44th President, Barack Obama, and currently has the privilege of Kamala Harris serving as Vice President. History should not and does not stop here. America should continue to uplift those who came before us.”
This is one of many major accomplishments in the Black community. I appreciate seeing schools actively engage in Black History Month, especially if their school is considered to be fairly diverse. This type of engagement is what makes the school system so important in society.
“Not only should children learn civic knowledge—how the electoral college works, the history of political parties, and so on—but they also need to master civic skills, which include respecting others, working collaboratively, acting in a way that is fair and just, and being an active participant in the life of the community,” Co-founder and President of the National School Climate Center Jonathan Cohen said.
All of these are influenced by the acknowledgement and celebration of Black history. Learning about different cultures and viewpoints can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. It allows us to pause and remember their stories, so we can commemorate their achievements. It builds respect for one another and develops a better attitude towards collaboration in a diverse world.
On the flip side, accomplishments do not always please everyone. Many argue it is unfair to devote an entire month to a single group of people, and we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year. Setting aside only one month out the year, many argue, gives people license to neglect this past for the other 11 months.
“ Being aware of our privileges, where they came from and the sacrifices it took to get us where we are today creates a higher feeling of appreciation.”
Personally, I encourage everyone to learn history other than their own and not wait until the month of February to learn about Black excellence. The reason for dedicating an entire month is the reason we have Pride Month, Native American Heritage Month and other months dedicated to specific groups or communities. It is to raise awareness, shed light on its educational value, and to merely celebrate the diversity of life. For many, it is a declaration for equality and freedom in America.
America had the privilege of being led by the 44th President, Barack Obama, and currently has the privilege of Kamala Harris serving as Vice President. History should not and does not stop here. America should continue to uplift those who came before us. Until our society acknowledges the contributions of all cultures, this focused time to highlight Black achievements and inspire and educate is essential.
Others argue that the emphasis on Black history is divisive and mistakenly label it ‘racist.’ I say to them as a reminder, we cannot discuss the civil rights movement, the freedom struggle of Black Americans and the continued fight for justice without paying attention to White allies who were working alongside Black people. Black History Month is not solely about praising Black individuals and diminishing the contribution of others. It is about celebrating the accomplishments and events that advanced America and gave Black Americans constitutional rights and freedom knowing that many of the events included the help of non-black allies.
This month, we are intentionally presented the opportunities to celebrate those who came before us. Apart from an awareness of the past, we can never appreciate the blessings we enjoy in the present.
Too many people take for granted the rights and opportunities that people before them fought, bled, and died to secure. Being aware of our privileges, where they came from and the sacrifices it took to get us where we are today creates a higher feeling of appreciation. The fact that we live in a world that continues to benefit from the advancements of our Black ancestors is amazing, but as we continue to live with these benefits, there needs to be acknowledgement, recognition and respect.
This is why Black History Month should be celebrated in every school. Woodson believed the heritage and contributions of Black Americans was excluded from history, and he saw this knowledge as essential to social change. A month dedicated to a group of people and/or a community should be a month of intentional learning. Intentionality helps us understand the purpose and importance of the past and the impact on the world we live in.
Black History Month will always be an important contribution in schools and America. Understand that this does not mean other historic months do not contribute.
“Black history is American history and so are Hispanic, Native American and Asian histories. Schools must be intentional in creating learning spaces where American history is taught from multiple perspectives,” Arizona District Director of Equity Perspective Dr. Adama Sallu said.