I recently told my friends that my next article would be about « Black History Month ». When I shared this idea I had with them, their first thought was « What is this? » After I explained the big picture behind this event, they told me that writing an article on this subject was a great idea. I personally thought I should really invest myself in this project because it would raise awareness on a topic that unfortunately is still unknown by many. Also, I believe that this could be an opportunity for a lot of people to discover a celebration involving a large part of the population. I absolutely understand why a lot of people, especially in Canada, might not know about this, because even me, as a black person, learned that there was a Black History Month only about a year ago.
The Black History Month, as its name suggests, is the month where we honor black people’s achievements over the years. This celebration takes place in February in Canada and in America, but is celebrated in October in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom. The predecessors of this holiday month began recognizing people in 1926, long before the term Black History Month even meant something; when an American historian named Carter Godwin Woodson created the Negro History Week with the help of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; the foundation he had previously formed. Even though Mr. Woodson managed to conceive this week that is often perceived as an extremely innovative action in the history of black people, mostly in the United States, he’s not the man who invented Black History Month.
The idea of having an entire month of remembrance came from the leader of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. A year later, in February 1970, the same university celebrated the first ever Black History Month. Furthermore, while celebrating the United States Bicentennial, president Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month as an official American celebration. In Canada, it was recognized as an official celebration in 1995 and our country also chose to assign this jubilee to the month of February because like the United States, Canada wanted the event to coincide with two important people’s birthdays: the one of a departed president that the black community truly appreciated; Abraham Lincoln and the one of a former slave, Frederick Douglass. Their birthdays happen to be on February 12 and February 14, respectively.
Finally, there have been people complaining about the existence of Black History Month and surprisingly, the complaints came from both black people and non black people claiming that such an event would make racism persist or that there should be a White History Month. Since everyone is entitled to his opinion, I will respect their points of view even though I don’t agree with them. According to me, Black History Month is not a way of putting black people on a pedestal, there is no alleging being better than the other communities. It’s more like a way of keeping in mind that many black figures fought for their community. I seriously think we shouldn’t forget these people because they are the reason why black history is shaped like this today.
A part of my history resides is them and I want to honor it.