You Know What Month It Is

By: Hilda Kolawole

I am not in downtown Raleigh often, but what comes to mind is museums, parties, and food trucks — nothing special though, nothing exceptionally grand, nothing life changing. But January 18th seemed almost surreal; hundreds of people, including Heritage High School’s National Achievers Society, gathered on the streets to march in remembrance of man who dedicated his life to fight for equality. Martin Luther King Day, a day that does not receive half as much credit it as deserves, closed the downtown streets, crowded sidewalks, and changed my view of downtown Raleigh completely. Though the weather was frigid, people marched side-by-side, arms held high, the air saturated with the sounds of negro spirituals and hymns, reminding us just how far we had come. Looking around that day and seeing the myriad of faces, I truly believed that MLK’s life was not in vain.

However his message feels lost when around this time of year the same question is asked: Why is there a Black History Month? Asking that question is the equivalent of asking why we teach history in general. It is to remember our past so that we may better understand our future. In school, we learn about the history of our country; a shady narrative highlighted with white glory and peeking through the cracks are fun facts about African Americans. Black History Month is a way to celebrate the accomplishments and victories of a people that were held down for far too long. A history that would probably never be told if not for the month of February. This explanation does not seem to be enough because inevitably this question is next. Why isn’t there a white history month? What these people fail to understand is that March and November are Irish and Italian history months. White history in general is America’s default setting.

Why is being problack seen as being anti-white? The two are not related and never have been. The refusal to acknowledge Black History Month as a celebration of black lives, is a refusal to acknowledge the current position of African Americans in the US, and the struggles they’ve endured. The fact that people question the need for Black History Month raises concern about how far we have come from MLK and how much has really changed since then. With movements like Black Lives Matter and others receiving negative backlash, has the negative portrayal of African Americans really come to an end? The affirmation of black lives is not the negation of white ones, nor is it saying that they are not as important. Black Lives Matter is a reminder that black people matter even when people are telling us that we don’t. Even when we are being shot down in the streets like cattle, even when people question why we would dare celebrate ourselves and our worth.

Black History Month is an accumulation of celebration and remembrance. It is a time for black people to shine and be heard. It should not be used to celebrate the ten most heard of black people; we already know about them. Instead, it should be used to shed light on the people we don’t hear too much about; the black people we didn’t know existed, but their contributions in one way or another helped us secure the position we have today. The importance of this month can not be stressed or reiterated enough. Songs like Beyonce’s Formation, that celebrates black lives and promotes the message of black excellence are needed now more than ever. These thoughts came to me on that crisp, sunny Martin Luther King day.

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