Over the last few years, I’ve heard many arguments about whether there is still a need for Black History Month. The other argument is whether Black History Month creates separatism instead of ethnic pride. We don’t need Black History Month when have a Black family in the White House right? I disagree. I am of the opinion that until the diverse stories of African Americans are interwoven into the fabric of our lives and integrated seamlessly into our school curriculums Black History Month is absolutely relevant. For African American youth in the foster care system who may not have strong family ties or may not know their family at all, learning about the contributions made by people of the same race can be empowering. I dare say it can help them form a sense of identity and self-worth.
The President of the most powerful nation is the world is of African descent. President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama are lawyers educated at Ivy League schools. They have been married nineteen years and have two daughters that were conceived after the wedding. Despite amazing role models in the White House, the images that (all) our children are more likely to see are criminals on the evening news or groupies on reality TV shows. Until that face time is reversed we need Black History Month.
The story of the movie Red Tails also reinforces my view that Black History Month is essential. George Lucas put millions of dollars of his own money into making a movie to tell the story about the Tuskegee Airmen because Hollywood would not support it financially. There was “confusion” about how to successfully market a movie about Black Veterans. Because positive African American stories on the big screen are rare, I purchased a ticket to see Red Tails and asked others in my circle to do the same. You know what? I didn’t like the movie all that much – it wasn’t a good story line and the expensive special effects were unnecessary in my opinion. I think the 1995 movie titled “The Tuskegee Airmen” was a much more “well-rounded” account of the experiences of these brave men. Until Hollywood values all stories we need Black History Month.
The legacy and contributions of African Americans in the United States go beyond Dr. King and slavery. Until our children know more about the contributions of African Americans we need Black History Month. Black History Month should serve as a weapon to combat racism, classism, and sexism. Call me naïve but I believe that we will understand each other better when each of us feels equal and appreciated. Instead of creating division, I believe that as we explore each other’s cultures and pasts we will uncover more similarities than differences. I believe in Asian American History Month as much as I believe in Black History Month. I believe that the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is as important as the United Negro College Fund. In some respects Black History Month is like a birthday – we all have a birthday but celebrating my birthday doesn’t make your birthday less valuable. Will your youth commemorate Black History Month?
I would love your feedback.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.