Black History Month: Celebrating the Contributions and Achievements
February is a Leap Year and Black History Month. It's important to remember our history, honor our heritage, and make progress.
February, derived from the Latin word februa meaning "to cleanse," is a month that holds significant historical and cultural importance. It was named after the Roman festival of atonement and was also a month dedicated to honoring the dead. This particular February, in the year 2024, is a Leap Year, a calendar-correcting occurrence that only happens once every four years.
The significance of this month is deeply personal for many individuals, including myself. On Leap Day in the year 2000, I tragically lost my beloved younger sister. Her sudden absence was devastating, and it also meant that we missed out on the person she would have become. This loss serves as a reminder of the impact that missed opportunities and lost potential can have on our lives.
Beyond personal loss, there are also larger societal and historical losses that we must acknowledge. Racism, hate, and oppression have resulted in missed opportunities and losses on a much larger scale. Black History Month serves as a crucial reminder of what we may have missed and what has been lost due to these systemic issues. It is essential to confront and acknowledge the history of the United States, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult it may be, in order to gain a more accurate understanding of our past and present.
I recently had a powerful experience that highlighted the importance of confronting history. During a visit to colonial Londontowne and Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland, I came across a sign that designated the site as a UNESCO Slave Route Project "Site of Memory." The sign depicted a haunting image of slaves packed onto a ship, serving as a stark reminder of the dark history of slavery in the United States. This moment transformed my perception of the site from charming to chilling, emphasizing the impact of acknowledging and confronting uncomfortable historical truths.
Conversely, my visit to the historic town of St. Michaels, Maryland, provided a different perspective. Despite its elite resorts, yacht clubs, and conservative politics, the town featured a memorial to Frederick Douglas, a former slave who became a renowned abolitionist and orator. This memorial shifted my negative impression of the town and highlighted the importance of recognizing and honoring African-American heritage, even in unexpected places.
The stories of individuals such as Sojourner Truth, Cudjo Lewis, and Frank McWorter further emphasize the resilience and strength of those who have faced oppression and adversity. By documenting and honoring these stories, we can learn from our past and work towards a more just and equitable future.
In the realm of politics, it is crucial to support leaders who prioritize acknowledging and addressing the issues faced by the Black community. The importance of electing leaders such as Joe Biden, who has a track record of working towards equity and justice, cannot be overstated. His commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as his efforts to move the Democratic Presidential Primary to more diverse locations, demonstrates a dedication to recognizing and uplifting marginalized voices.
As we continue to observe Black History Month, it is essential to reflect on the impact of missed opportunities and losses, both personal and societal. By confronting uncomfortable truths, honoring the resilience of those who have faced oppression, and supporting leaders who prioritize equity and justice, we can work towards a more inclusive and just society for all.