by Dylan Lee.
Black History Month first originated as part of an initiative by writer and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who launched Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson proclaimed that Negro History Week should always occur in the second week of February — between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Since 1976, every American president has proclaimed February as Black History Month. Today, other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom also devote an entire month to celebrating black history. While we celebrate and study Black history all year long, Black History Month elevates the opportunity to spotlight Black achievements and contributions to the fabric of this nation.
Black History Month celebrates the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and history and acknowledges the important contributions of African Americans/Blacks in the United States. Their legacy in America is built upon strong roots. Throughout American history, the black community has always exhibited an unwavering understanding of the value of family — as an incomparable source of comfort, strength, and even survival. In the past year, all of us witnessed a deep and profound rise of awareness and development of the Black Lives Matter movement, which culminated into a massive and widespread of protests and civilian acts of resistance and solidarity, even as COVID-19 raged in our communities.
Black History is American History, and we need to commemorate African American history, honor its many achievements, inspire opportunities for the future among youth, and applaud the diversity that enriches our nation. We need to remind ourselves that despite the struggles faced throughout Black History, African Americans continue to inspire and make wonderful achievements. This year’s Black History Month has more gravity and significance than ever, as a time for us to take pause and look inward, asking what we can do to better confront racism and inequality.
Raised in Oakland all my life, I realize that Oakland, California has a special place in Black History: The Town’s black roots run deep as the origins of social movement Black Panther Party. Oakland’s diverse community has made space for dozens of black-owned businesses that are thriving even during the pandemic. Just a week ago, the world witnessed Oakland-born Kamala Harris, the first woman, Black and Asian American person to become Vice President of the United States, shattering another layer of the glass ceiling in American politics. Not only does Oakland claim a rich black and multicultural heritage through its social movements and historical residents, but many black Oakland-born celebrities continue making indelible marks on today’s culture including: actors Shemar Moore, Zendaya and Mahershala Ali and Marvel’s Black Panther director Ryan Coogler.
African Americans have played important roles in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Some have created inventions that change how we live today. From trailblazing activists to transcendent authors, and stars of our favorite Netflix movies, Black culture permeates our everyday lives and is distinctly American. Others continue to be pioneers and create a path for students like us to follow. Furthermore, Black History has always been associated with rich, meaningful music featuring words of wisdom. African Americans have used song, poetry, and inspirational words to power them through times of strife and joy. Anybody who pays even a little attention to American social affairs and politics knows that we still have much work to do in order for this nation to truly live out its creed that everybody is “created equal.” The lessons of Black History Month provide us with a way forward by examining our past. There are so many stories that have yet to be told about the history of black America. I hope it inspires us to search beyond the typical and to seek out the extraordinary. The stories are waiting; we just have to go and find them.