In this segment of Centric Commemorates, Maurice Faison talks about his perspective of Black History Month and the importance of continued learning.
Part of our Centric Commemorates series.
Black history, especially Black History Month, can feel like a collection of small, random facts you might run across playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, asking you to recall some long-forgotten lesson from middle school. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s a core part of America’s story as a nation. However, this story has minimized or omitted the contributions of the Africans who were brought here as slaves and of Black Americans thereafter. This is why Dr. Carter G. Woodson started what was originally called “Negro History Week” in 1915 – what we now know as Black History Month.
No matter your race, ethnicity or nationality, it is important for all of us to understand Black history in this country. To acknowledge the struggles and triumphs within it. To honor early pioneers as well as living legends. And, to celebrate the role Black Americans have played and continue to play in the arts, humanities, science, business, and culture.
For those of us long out of middle school, learning about Black history means we have to be proactive. Because as little of it as we were taught then, we have even less exposure to it now. Such a historical disconnect is why it feels like we are living in two Americas at times. We’re missing part of our collective history.
There’s good in taking the time to fill some of those gaps. When we do, we’ll get a richer view of our country, we’ll get a better understanding of how we got to this point, and we’ll get historical context to many of the social topics and situations playing out in real time.
So, let’s celebrate Maya Angelou who in January 2022, became the first Black woman to be featured on the US quarter. Let’s read her works and understand how she used her gifts as a poet and author to elevate the voice of Black women and the conversation around identity and race. Her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a good start.
Let’s celebrate Gordon Parks, a photojournalist from the 1940s through the 1970s. His photos highlighted aspects of Black American life and gave faces to aspects of our community previously unseen. His freelanced works made it into the premier mainstream publication Vogue magazine. Mr. Parks would later become the first Black staff member of LIFE magazine.
And, let’s celebrate Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman and LGBTQ activist who was prominent in the Stonewall Uprising which would later become PRIDE month. Her contributions to the movement have been well chronicled, including in the documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
Check out these Black History resources to learn more:
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.