As we all know, Black History Month is around the corner. The time of year where in Canada, we re-learn that Rosa Parks did not sit at the back of the bus that day, and that Martin Luther King Jr. existed. BITM is working with other organizations (even departments of the current New Brunswick government) - to change that, but that is a long road moving forward.
Black History Month. It had its origin story in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, a historian, and the son of former slaves, successfully founded a week that celebrated the accomplishments of African-Americans. It was officially named Black History Month in 1970 in the USA, and was adopted in Canada in 1995. Woodson noted that African-American contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them." and that Race Prejudice "is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind." So part of his intention was to demonstrate and further prove not only that Black people in North America had contributed much to society, but that they were both accomplished, and were accomplishing things.
*Carter G. Woodson - credited "father" of Black History Month
I argued in my last blog (found here) that “Black” is a name that was given to Africans to put them at the polar opposite of “white” - two inaccurate names used to describe human skin tones, names that alongside the concept of “race” itself, became common in the 1500’s with the rise of the slavery and the United States itself (among the many other names we were given). African History did not start with “Black” people, so it’s important to remember that being Black is a documentation of the pain and strength that endured when countless humans were stolen from their homes and brought to a “New” world against their will, an accomplishment in itself. I won’t speak on behalf of the millions that were already here - but we all know it wasn’t a New World by any means. Words. They’re so powerful in conveying messages, especially the wrong ones, and they’re so messed up.
Black History is not African History. It’s the History we were given, and also made for ourselves. It’s important. “Black” people over in the Western World. We don’t know the stories of African ancestors, we don’t know our true heritage, our true culture, our countries, the knowledge lost in the fires and civilizations were burned. Much of the slave trade took place in Western Africa (while the rest was colonized). But it is a continent of 54 countries, and even within those countries the multiculturalism can be astounding. So Black History has served a purpose. With education systems around the world that do not teach Black and/or African History, it has served to at least un-erase some of the lies and misconceptions that have been told about people from darker skinned cultures over the years.
But where do we go from here? Now. Today. Woodson clearly wanted to highlight Black accomplishment. Does that mean always reaching far into History? I think history matters, I love it. I’ve talked about it repeatedly in this article. I spent time scouring the internet to write this, trying to be as accurate as my amateur self CAN be. I look forward to sharing, alongside my team, historical information we’ve obtained through our partner at the New Brunswick Historical Archives, Meredith Batt (she has a book in the works, remember the name), on our own channels, and I look forward to the continued opportunities CBC has given us to reach New Brunswickers on a larger scale.
But I wonder, are we living up to the true intentions of this special time of year? There are a lot of voices supporting the idea that Black History is really Canadian History. Even further supported by the idea that “Black” is a construct created out of the “rise” of the Western World itself. Black “History” should be as tightly ingrained in our educational system as any other History relating to the journey that is Canada. Carter G. Woodson was a historian, he set this week in motion all those years ago because he knew that America wouldn’t do it for him. He wanted to highlight and celebrate the story of Black/African American accomplishments. Present tense though? In this complex, busy, multi-faceted world with instant access to information, should Black History Month become Black Futures Month? So what could we do differently during these 28 days? Is it time to lose focus on (while not forgetting) slavery and the pain of the past, and instead spend a month focusing on Black present day accomplishments, present day ventures, endeavours, opportunities, and the possibilities of the future? What would benefit us more? Do we take this month to follow up with Government organizations and Corporations to see how well they’ve held onto/fulfilled any new PR promises made the previous 12 months to help improve the economic, social, educational, health & mental health of our Black North Americans (The Global Theme for Black History Month 2022 is Black Health and Wellness btw)? What do we do? Last year, with others, I helped bring to light New Brunswick’s History of Slavery, for all the naysayers. But this year, do we just focus on the pain, the memories, the reminder that we were brought here and enslaved for hundreds of years? I’d rather look around than look behind. I’d rather Black History be a part of the K-12 experience for all children, in all History curriculum. I’d rather look towards the future every February.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Comment on our Facebook, IG or twitter. Hit us up.
What does BHM 2022 mean to you?
*I did not come up with the concept of Black Futures Month. I just love it.*
Clinton is a entrepreneur with interests in retail, beauty, real estate, blockchain, farming, and more. He is also a founder of BlackLantic.
"I migrated to 2009 (to my surprise), well ahead of the 2020/21 crowd 😉."
With a strong belief that POC need to support, work together, and collaborate, Clinton has spent years driven by a need to make the world a better place for his kids, and people of all cultures/lifestyles to grow up in.