Since 1976, the month of February has celebrated Black History Month, an important recognition of the achievements and contributions of African Americans in U.S. history. At a time where the country is rife with divisive tension, members of One Young World’s African American Ambassador community reflect on why this annual observance is vital, and what it means to them.
Lindsey Day. President & Editor-In-Chief, CRWNMAG
In school I was taught a very troubling — and limited — version of American history. Much like what was reflected on TV, in publications, and so forth, "history" typically revolved around "white history.” According to our textbooks, Black History consisted of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and MLK. The daughter of a Black mother and a white father in the US, race was an obvious topic in my household; but it wasn't until adulthood that I was truly able to contextualize these experiences. Honestly, I wish we didn’t need Black History Month — but I believe we do. It gives us a time and space to celebrate our heritage and our leaders, to unite around shared experiences and to channel our collective trauma into something beautiful and productive. It’s a reminder that our history could never be confined to anyone’s textbook anyway; for we are actively writing it every day.
Donte McCrary-McClain. Customer Business Manager, Unilever
As Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." As a One Young World Ambassador living in times of heightened social and political scrutiny, it is evermore imperative to reflect on how far we have come during Black History Month and also strategize and act for the change we want and need to see moving forward in the interest of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Wale Shodiya. Audit Manager, KPMG
Black History Month is about reflecting and appreciating the sacrifices of those great pioneers that paved the way for other black people like myself. It is a great time for each one of us to do a little soul searching about the opportunities and privileges that we are enjoying today because of those people that came before us, and ask ourselves what I am doing to make other people's’ lives better. Deep down, there is more that unites us than divides us. We just have to be willing listen to others and work together for the common good of everyone.
LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill. Deputy Chief of Education, Office of the Mayor at City of Pittsburgh
Many African-Americans, because of the long history of slavery and racism, have no connection to their own genealogy and country of origin that many other ethnicities share. Black History Month helps us to at least celebrate the 400 years of contributions that blacks have made to the US. It acknowledges, in the words of Langston Hughes, that "I too, sing America." And in Trump's America, we need that history, now, more than ever.
Torin Perez. Speaker & Coach for Leadership Development
Black History Month is widely recognized as a time to draw our attention to the lives and achievements of Black people who helped build our great country. Growing up, whether it was in school or at home, I enjoyed learning about historical figures that fought against slavery and for our civil rights. Now as an adult, I understand the importance of this celebration, but I believe it should really serve as an inspiring impetus for the nation and the world to continue the fight for equality and against injustice wherever we may find it, 365 days a year.
Mary Parker. Organizational consultant & Co-Founder, Just Collaboration
Until we live in a world where policies are not rooted in racial bias and prejudice, a celebration specific to a particular heritage will remain valuable. I view Black History Month as dedicated time to pause and appreciate all of the achievements by black people and to reflect on my own contributions as a black American. For me, celebrating Black History Month helps Black Americans to continue to be seen and celebrated when so much of our history and contributions have been erased and hidden.
Christopher Conley. Product Marketing Specialist: Oil & Gas Alliance Programs, Siemens Energy
As an African-American male, I take great pride in having earned such a high level of education in a nation where it was once illegal for someone like myself to read. Black History Month is a time when I reflect on the exceptional advances African-Americans have contributed to this country. Our rich history has inspired me to give back and bestow my talents to uplift young African-American men to achieve their academic ambitions through B.A.S.I.C. (Brother’s Advocating Service and Inspiration in the Community) a non-profit organization I founded with my close friends.
Sharnay Hearn Davis. Director, Hill House First Source Center
If not for Frederick Douglass, Dr Carter G. Woodson, Ella Baker, Dr Mary Mcleod Bethune and Dr Dorothy I. Height standing firm in their beliefs, our former First Lady Michelle Obama would not have been able to stand on a platform and state, “ I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” That statement alone called to our remembrance the literal blood, sweat, and tears that molded the country into what it is today. Until America comprehends that Black History is American History, our country will remain divided.