Dr. G’s 2022 Black History Month Reflections*
“Considering the past, living in the present, preparing for the future…” ~Dr. G
This above thought has been something that I am always thinking about, but especially during Black History Month. So much of what I and my ancestors experienced plays a huge role in who I am, what I do, and my next steps. With all of the recent discussions about critical race theory, book bans and changing curriculums (just to name a few) normalizing the conversations about Black History Month are needed now more than ever.
Sadly, there are still those who continue to say and believe that Black History Month is not needed or even feel that they should have the choice to have their children opt out of Black History Month lessons…yet many Black and Brown students experience mental trauma and abuse in and outside of their classrooms on a daily basis (that’s another post). But I digress and say to those naysayers once again my response is it is very much needed especially now!! And let me further back up this statement from the father of Black History himself Carter G. Woodson as he states that the legacy of Black History Month (originally named ‘Negro History Week”) was never meant to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience, but to bring to the public’s attention important developments that merit emphasis.” In other words, it was always meant to evolve from a week to a month, to everyday dialogue!!
Reflecting on that pushback, I am reminded of why Black History is necessary every time I step foot in my class and a student tells me “I’m their first Black professor…” or when they learn about Black icons like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Baker, or Essex Hemphill and they leave my class amazed and yearning for more because this is the first time that they have even heard their names mentioned. In an almost perfect place, I would love to live in a society where Black history, culture, experiences, literature, music, and more are part of the curriculum, particularly K-12, sadly this is still a struggle. However, the journey continues!!
For some, Black History Month serves as a time to face the past, but at the same can be a time of celebration and joy. And while the past has its dark moments, we are not permanently fixed during that time! As I often tell my students, sometimes we have to sit in the discomfort and process it…sometimes we have to sit in the discomfort and ask the hard questions and also listen to the responses that follow…sometimes we have to sit in the discomfort and think about the ways in which we can grow from it…We have to move from seeing Black History Month as an item that we can check off of our to-do list, or as some form of punishment (can’t see how that would be the case, unfortunately some do feel this way) and see it as a time to expand on our existing knowledge, while learning to build community.
This year, I came into celebrating Black History with a little more optimism partly due to this year’s theme, “Black Health and Wellness”!! (To know more about how each theme is selected see here .) The amazing thing about health and wellness is that it comes in many forms, whether it is scheduling time with a therapist, implementing an exercise regimen, taking time out for self-care, walking your dog, spending time with family and friends, taking a cultural excursion, and so much more! For African Americans, highlighting our health and wellness is essential to the mind, body, and soul! As noted by the Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at USC School of Dramatic Arts, “Black joy is the heartbeat and pulse of our survival, our resiliency, our perseverance, our health and wellbeing.” Despite the struggles that African Americans have and continue to face when it comes to healthcare and wellness, we still persevere!! We are resilient!! So, with that said I charge you with the task of finding that joy through health and wellness!! And while you are at it, take some time to discover the many ways in which African Americans have contributed to the world of health and wellness.
Now you know I cannot let you go without sharing some goodies!! Just in case you need some additional reading (or you want to update your list) materials check out these reading and viewing lists to help keep the spirit of Black History going even after February has ended!
As another February comes to a close, remember Black History Month is another opportunity to continuously learn and grow! Even amidst all that is happening, knowing that I can reflect on the many experiences and achievements of Black folks always gives me a sense of joy and pride!
*As previously posted with Happy Mama Happy Mini