February is Black History Month and a time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the United States. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week to help ensure that students in school were exposed to Black history. He was an author and historian, and was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. In 1976, Negro History Week became Black History Month.
It is important to note that the Black history taught to students was done so from a white-centered perspective. Many of the history lessons we have learned were sanitized versions of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. We tend to not think about systemic racism and its essence in the formation of the United States and its continued presence to this day. At LifeWorks NW we are committed to changing this painful reality and building a more just and anti-racist organization.
Many ask whether Black History Month is still important, still needed. Our answer is quite simple, YES. Before we, as a nation, can move beyond the past racial harms, the murders of unarmed Black community members, and the social unrest we have witnessed as a result of this past injustice, there needs to be truth, transparent at all levels, and then accountability. It is easy to overlook our violent past and make statements such as, “This is not the America I know,” or “This is not who we are as a nation.” Yet, so recently there was a storming at our nation’s capital and the news is full of the deaths of Black Americans. This is our present and our history, and regrettably the legacy of structural racism is still very much with us.
At LifeWorks NW we believe Black History Month is more important now than ever. What has been relayed in our history are those things which we choose to celebrate, what we choose to honor. We must also examine what our nation chooses to forget or not acknowledge: it’s failures, its shortcomings and most importantly, slavery. And most importantly, we must remain conscious of the devastating impact slavery has had on our Black community since the founding of our nation.
Black History Month acknowledges the accomplishments and contributions of our Black community members. It is also an opportunity to not forget the past, to focus on the importance of preserving African American and Black culture, to celebrate identity and the sense of community, to commit to racial justice, and inspire a new generation to continue the work of advancing equity and inclusion. Let us remember and rebuild together toward a more just future!