Remembering and sharing our greatness can give a strength to endure what we face in our communities every day
Black History month comes at a difficult time in history for black people living in communities around the country. Gun violence has caused a crisis in Philadelphia and has hit the black community hardest. The emotional trauma that follows has all of us distracted, and for good reason. So the question is, “How do we put this serious problem aside to celebrate Black History month?” “Can doing this help us heal?”
For many black people there is something comforting in remembering that the Civil Right Movement culminated in a proclamation that acknowledges the contributions of African Americans to the United States of America for the entire month of February. Celebrating black history is a valiant effort to heal the lingering traumatic wounds of slavery. The history of Black people is greater than what’s happening in the community at any given time. And, if this proclamation, this collective memory of Black History, did not exist, this noble path to recovering hope and confidence in the resiliency of Black people would be hard to find in a society-at-large that remains resistant to acknowledging the need for people of diverse backgrounds to be celebrated.
Black History month gives us an opportunity to remember little known but significant contributions and inventions by black people that helped change the world. Who would remember that Garrett Morgan, a black man, invented the traffic light, or that in the 1900s, Madam C.J Walker became a millionaire from the hair products she created, and that Lonnie G. Johnson, an engineer, worked for the Air Force on the stealth bomber program and invented the Super Soaker water gun. Not to mention even the lesser known, but important contributions of women like Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD, one of the first black women to earn a PhD in the field of psychology 1933. Her work advanced knowledge of the impact of segregation in education on Black children.
And then there is the love of cultural and family traditions, remembering the sacrifices that were made that are now honored during Black History month.
Black history is critical to understanding America’s history. It is important to realize that Black History is for all Americans. It was created, in part, to help us remember that America is a multicultural society, and that greatness is born in every stratum of society.
Black History month is a symbol that reminds us that space is constantly being made for all people. Gun violence has spread to every community in America and affects us all. Under this stress, it is so easy to forget that we are more than our circumstances, and that choosing to remember the good there has been along the way is life affirming and healing.