Columnist discusses Black History Month and its lack of recognition among Americans.
by Maya Mattan, ’20
February is the month of love, filled with candy hearts and elementary Valentine festivities. February is the month of Washington’s birthday which has become a national holiday. February is the month of the Super Bowl: the largest American sporting event.
February is known for all kinds of celebrations, but what about the whole month’s dedication? Less acknowledged by many Americans, February is also the month of Black history.
Black History Month began as only a week in the month of February. It was specifically in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of two important men in American history: Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This week was created in order for people to pay tribute and honor the history of African-Americans to prevent their importance from being forgotten.
The week was started by historian Carter G. Woodson with the goal to combat the erasure of Black history in American culture. Although the entire month is dedicated to Black history, most people still do not recognize its importance.
This year, the learning center added a bulletin board of African American authors and related books for Black History Month. Other than a wall covered in bright blue in the downstairs LC, nothing else in UAHS has been done. I have spoken to several administrators to see if we can get a more permanent recognition implemented all year round. A cultural center has been discussed to be integrated at the new high school. Currently, I am working with a fellow student to create Pleasant Litchford Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, a safe space for all students.
This celebration of Black excellence is not only an appreciation but also a part of recognizing Black people as a vital and visible part of the United States. Captioning a photo with your favorite Maya Angelou poem is not a voice for social change. A bunch of hashtags and posts of Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes is just a façade of “post-racial” America. Embracing and actively celebrating what these civil rights legends advocated and fought for will begin the understanding that this fight is far from over.
Some argue that with the existence of Black History Month, there should be a white history month. What they may not realize is that white history dominates our standard curriculum. It brandishes the pages of every textbook. It’s disguised solely under history, and it’s taught every day. Every month is White History Month.
Not only is there a Black History Month, but there are also celebrations of other cultural minorities; Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month are a few examples.
Why is there only one month designated to celebrate a culture or race? Why are they not embraced and celebrated every day? This just belittles marginalized groups and their contribution to history. Sadly, an unrecognized month is all they’re going to get in this country unless Americans begin celebrates black people beyond Black History Month. Until every month is Black History Month.