Black History Month, which initially started as a weeklong commemoration in the early 20th century, has been a way to remember and celebrate important people and events in African American history officially for more than 50 years. After a tumultuous 2020, with several alleged police brutality cases against people of color across our nation, it’s more important than ever to recognize the contributions of Black Americans.
We’re not just talking about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks or former President Barack Obama (D), but also those who the spotlight hasn’t shone on enough or not at all. There are veterans who served in our armed forces, even when their fellow countrymen didn’t accept them as equals. There are entertainers who once were applauded when they were on stage but weren’t able to eat dinner at the same restaurant as those who were delighted by their performances. There are those who made great strides in science and aeronautics, who are barely mentioned in our history books.
The month is a reminder to reach out to our neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances and former classmates and listen to their stories. People just like us who work hard every day to provide a good life for themselves and their loved ones, and who dream of a better tomorrow. Yet, every day many Black Americans face obstacle after obstacle because they find — before they utter a word or make a move — they are being judged by the color of their skin.
Many of us can’t even comprehend being judged based on our bloodline. We heard the stories of our parents, grandparents or other ancestors who were once called derogatory names or turned away from jobs, some not even applying due to signs such as NINA (no Irish need apply) hung on workplace doors. But today, many of us couldn’t imagine this happening to us.
However, it’s happening every day, in our country, in our towns, even in our schools to those who are Black.
This past summer, journalism-style guidebooks used by papers across the country decided when describing Americans of African ancestry to no longer use “black” but “Black.” The call was made because lowercase is a color but uppercase signifies a culture. Capitalizing Black celebrates people who share history and culture just like Germans, Italians, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos and more.
Let’s not let this month pass without learning about our fellow Americans’ cultures and about them as human beings. Months dedicated to certain cultures provide the opportunity to learn more about the history of people outside of our inner circle and everyday lives. It gives us a chance to broaden our horizons and understand that we are all in this thing called life together, only if we realize just how similar and equal we are.
We are inviting readers to share their reflections about this year’s Black History Month in perspective articles. Submissions should be approximately 500 words, and we welcome photos to accompany the piece. Send articles and photos to Rita J. Egan at [email protected]