For some young Blacks of this age, it’s hard to look at the past and connect with it. Most kids spend Black History Month thinking about our enslaved ancestors, remembering (if we’re old enough) President Barack Obama, or watching Fast Black History videos on TikTok.
Haven’t we heard all there is to hear? Rosa Parks sat on a bus and said no. Ruby Bridges was the first Black kid to go to a white school–spoiler alert: it was awful. Malcolm X promoted a violent approach. MLK, Jr. was peaceful and had a dream.
Don’t get me wrong–it’s of the utmost importance that we understand our history before moving forward. But our history starts in Africa. Before slavery, we were kings and queens. We were rulers. Black women were warriors.
Jackie Robinson being the first Black man in Major League Baseball is American history, not Black history. Once we realize that, we can understand Black excellence doesn’t come from ‘making it’ in America. Only by accomplishing great things for yourself and for the development of your people can we find the true meaning of Black History Month.
Black History Month is not a time to go on and on about our oppression in America. It’s a time to look back on Black excellence, channel it and lead with it. It’s time to learn about Claudette Conway, the first woman to sit on a bus and say no to giving up her seat, and to learn about the strategy involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It’s a time to learn about people like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Ruby Bridges as role models who gave us knowledge, not just heroes whose accomplishments we marvel at from a distance.
When we see them as role models giving us knowledge to use today, it gives us power as a community to rise up and carry the torch they’re so desperately trying to hand off to us.
Ryann Michelle Dawson lives in the Western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Ryann is an avid reader, enjoys writing for her local newspaper, and loves trying out various types of food! Ryann enjoys writing about politics, international policies, human rights, and social justice. Ryann attends Fenwick High School.