I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Welcome to February everyone,
This month feature events such as Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, Super Bowl Sunday, National Wear Red Day, and National Bird-Feeding Month. However, growing up the one that meant the most in my community was Black History Month. When my parents were children their history books didn’t reflect any African-American contributions to American society. So, for me, Black History Month was an inherent part of my childhood. Moreover, this event originally began as a week long celebration, courtesy of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
In 1926, Dr. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed that the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Dr. Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society. Beginning this initiative in the nation’s public schools was essential. However, the first Negro History Week was met with a less than stellar response, cooperation was gained from the Departments of Education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school administrations of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Despite the acceptance, an annual repeat of the event was planned.
By 1969, Kent State’s Black United Students proposed the week be expanded to a whole month. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970. In 1976, the informal expansion was officially recognized by the U.S. government.
The initial aim of Black History Month was to encourage the teaching of Black American’s history. Now, the current aim should be more than memorizing facts and events, but explore the various journeys of our black citizens, present and past. And unlike my parents academic upbringing, black history now has a firm place in U.S. history textbooks.
My hope for Black History Month is that it has a positive effect on everyone that chooses to celebrate it. I want the personal narratives to command a deep appreciation from its audience and change narrow minded views. Hopefully, this will bring more meaning to words in a textbook and give inspiration to all Americans.
Follow Anita on Twitter: @Emranija
Happy MLK Day Y’all.
Martin Luther King, Jr is an American icon that I’ve known about since an early age. My parents made sure that my brother and I understood the history of the African-American Civil Rights Movement and how Dr. King was a crucial part of making that renowned. Inherently, this began to build a foundation for me and how I viewed the world. I was taught to judge a person by their character and not by their color or creed.
When I first moved from Maryland to Virginia, I had no idea what was in store for me. Although I knew about racism, the South was an entirely different animal once you lived there. I expected discrimination from the white community, but it was a total shock to receive it from another African-American. I was criticized for the way I spoke and dressed and was told that I was trying to “act white”. For years, my individuality was encouraged by my family members; however, in this new place, I wasn’t black enough or labeled an “Uncle Tom”. This hurt me more than when I was told that a white boy (that I liked) didn’t like me because of my skin color. I was okay with the boy not liking me, or even excepting me, but not being excepted by members of my own community was devastating.
I learned not to let the actions of a few define who I was or my dreams. It would’ve been easy to default to the level to which others tried to bully me to, but like Dr King, I took a stand for myself and what I felt was right. If it weren’t for those moments in my youth, I wouldn’t be who I am now.
I’m proud to say that I teach my son the same motto my parents instilled in me. I want him to know that hating someone based on their skin color, social status, sexual orientation, or any other discriminating factor is unacceptable. Hate is a wasteful, negative effort that pulls a person away from positive energy that can motivate them to greater heights.
I want a better, brighter, and more diverse future for my son. I’d like there to be no hate in his future, but the side effects from the 192 years of oppression in America’s history won’t likely let that happen. I just pray that we as human beings will recognize that skin color doesn’t really matter and doesn’t define who we are.
Follow Anita on Twitter: @Emranija
Resources: For more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
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