“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.” - African Proverb
Do you remember when you started observing Black History Month? How did you learn about it? How do you celebrate it now? Whether it’s something you’ve done your whole life or it’s a new tradition to you, celebrating Black History Month is a way of honoring those that have come before us and embracing all that we are now.
What started as Negro History Week in February 1926 expanded into Black History Month in the 1960s and is now commemorated worldwide. Historian, author, and journalist Carter G. Woodson was dedicated to the study of the history of the African diaspora and chose the month of February in honor of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Also known as African American History Month, this tradition has its roots in schools because the focus was on learning and studying Black history in America.
Being familiar with our history is so important because it gives us the tools to guide the present and design the future. The African diaspora we have today is mainly due to the international slave trade which led to the spread of Africans all over the world. From food to music, enslaved Africans held on to various aspects of their homelands and passed them down. New traditions were also created, resulting in new cultures and ways of being. Cornrows/canerows and collard greens are just some examples of the elements that we have today from the Africans enslaved in the Americas. Today, we have a strong variety of the Black experience, from the Americas to Europe and beyond.
Did You Know: Black History Month has a new theme every year!
Since it was Negro History Week, the month has had a theme to place emphasis on a particular area or topic that is relevant at the time. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. It focuses on Black scholars and conventional medical practitioners as well as birth workers, herbalists, etc. Timely for the pandemic, it honors the social support systems Black communities have built to maintain good health and wellness. This theme has many layers: mental health, physical wellbeing, food justice, health disparities, medical education, and more.
While Black History Month was founded by and for African Americans, it has received national recognition in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada as well. As Black people all over the world continue to think of their roots, Black History Month is a great opportunity for everyone with a connection to Africa to remember where we’ve come from and celebrate where we’re going. We can appreciate the countless contributions of African Americans to what America is today, which is usually disregarded. We can celebrate the numerous achievements of Black people in America and the world. We can also highlight what we have in common and how we’re stronger together!
African, African American, and African Caribbean communities are so powerful when we acknowledge both our differences and similarities and unite for our common good. This looks like learning about each others’ culture, putting on events together, and enjoying each others’ arts. Some specific ways we can do this is by trying foods from other countries and cultures, discussing traditions and swapping stories, reading books, watching shows, and listening to podcasts that teach about a certain topic we’re not familiar with, supporting Black businesses that give back to the community, hosting events in our neighborhoods or at work, and so on.