February is Black History Month and with it, a national recognition of the contributions and triumphs of Black people in America. The question today, however, is what value does this annual celebration have for grown folks? What does it mean and how should it be approached? The answer isn’t quite so simple.
For schoolchildren the matter is pretty straightforward: Black history matters because the educational system, as a rule, simply doesn’t cover the contributions of Black people. It’s necessary to talk to young children about Frederick Douglas in February because he, along with Ella Baker, aren’t covered at any other time of the year. Black History Month, in that sense, is generally thought of as a grand supplement to that which is generally anemic and lacking. The problem is, after years of school plays and speeches, there’s a fatigue and for grown Black people, a real search for the meaning.
Do we need Black History Month, as adults, to learn more about the history of Black people? Does it now morph into a month in which we rededicate and refocus on the advancement of Black people? Is Black History Month a time to reexamine the history being taught in the schools or could it be an occasion to remind the nation of its guilt? Life (adulthood specifically) isn’t so easy and neither is answering this question. Very likely, the answer is all of the above.
No Black person in America knows all that they should about the history of their people. This month gives everyone the opportunity to expand their knowledge. Personally and collectively, more should be done for the freedom of Black people. This month should be a time of rededication to those ends. What Black children learn in school is of grave importance and this month, of all months, is an opportunity to evaluate their education. America should never forget its debt to Black people and this month serves as a great reminder of that, too. Black History Month is about the past but also the bright, Black future. Let’s refocus, rededicate and reinvigorate ourselves towards liberation.