Thursday, February 29, 2024

Black History Month

Black History Month and Why It Is Important

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements, and contributions, and recollect the struggles of Black people throughout history. It is also a time to reflect on the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality and to learn from the past to shape a better future. In this blog post, I will explain what Black History Month is, how it started, why it is important, and how you can participate in it.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is an annual observance that takes place in February in the United States and Canada, and in October in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany. It is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the rich and diverse history of people of African descent, who have often been marginalized, oppressed, and erased from mainstream narratives. Black History Month aims to highlight the achievements and contributions of Black people in various fields, such as arts, science, politics, sports, literature, music, and more. It also seeks to educate people about the history of slavery, colonialism, racism, civil rights movements, and other aspects of the Black experience that have shaped the world we live in today.

How did Black History Month start?

Black History Month has its roots in the work of Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915. Woodson wanted to promote the study and appreciation of Black history, which he felt was neglected and distorted by mainstream education and media. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week, which was set in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent figures who fought against slavery. Woodson hoped that by celebrating Black history for one week every year, it would eventually become an integral part of American history.

Negro History Week gradually gained popularity and support from various organizations, schools, churches, and communities across the country. In 1976, as part of the bicentennial celebration of the United States, it was expanded to a month-long observance and renamed as Black History Month. Since then, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation to recognize February as Black History Month. Other countries have also adopted the idea of celebrating Black history in different months. For example, in the UK, Black History Month was first observed in 1987 as part of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Why is Black History Month important?

Black History Month is important because it provides an opportunity to celebrate, honor, and learn from the lives and stories of Black people who have made significant contributions to society and culture. It also helps to challenge stereotypes, myths, and prejudices that have been used to justify discrimination and oppression against Black people. By acknowledging and respecting the diversity and complexity of Black history, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and others, and foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

Black History Month is also important because it reminds us that Black history is not only about the past but also about the present and the future. It encourages us to recognize the ongoing challenges and struggles that Black people face today, such as systemic racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, health disparities, economic inequality, and environmental injustice. It also inspires us to support the movements and organizations that are working to create positive change and advance social justice for Black people and other marginalized groups.

How can you participate in Black History Month?

There are many ways that you can participate in Black History Month, whether you are Black or not. Here are some suggestions:

- Read books by Black authors or about Black history and culture. You can find many recommendations online or at your local library or bookstore.

- Watch movies or documentaries that feature Black stories or perspectives. You can also check out online platforms that showcase Black films or filmmakers.

- Listen to music by Black artists or genres that originated from Black culture. You can also explore podcasts or radio shows that focus on Black issues or voices.

- Visit museums or exhibitions that display Black art or artifacts. You can also attend online events or webinars that offer virtual tours or lectures on Black history or culture.

- Support Black-owned businesses or organizations that serve or advocate for Black communities. You can also donate money or time to causes that align with your values or interests. Some examples of Black-owned businesses are: World Wide Technology (a global tech consulting firm), Salamander Resort & Spa (a luxury hotel owned by Sheila C. Johnson), ActOne Group (a workforce management company), Beauty Bakerie (a vegan cosmetics brand), Brown Capital Management (an investment firm), The Lip Bar (a cruelty-free makeup line), Blavity (a media platform for millennials of color), Mented Cosmetics (a nude lipstick brand), McBride Sisters Collection (a wine company), Partake Foods (an allergy-friendly snack brand) and many more.

- Learn more about your own ancestry or heritage. You can use online tools or services that help you trace your family tree or DNA origins.

- Engage in conversations or discussions with your friends, family or colleagues about Black history or current events. You can also join online forums or groups that facilitate dialogue or debate on these topics.

- Educate yourself or others about the issues that affect Black people today. You can use online resources or courses that provide information or analysis on these topics. Some of the issues that you can learn more about are systemic racism, which is the structural and institutional discrimination and oppression of people of color based on their race; police brutality, which is the excessive and often lethal use of force by law enforcement officers against civilians, especially people of color; and racial justice, which is the fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of their race, and the elimination of racial disparities and discrimination in all aspects of society.

- Take action or get involved in campaigns or movements that promote racial justice and equality. You can sign petitions, contact your representatives, attend protests or rallies, or volunteer for organizations that work on these issues. Some of the organizations that you can support are: Black Lives Matter, which is a global movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people; NAACP, which is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization that advocates for political, educational, social and economic equality for people of color; ACLU, which is a nonpartisan organization that defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States; The Bail Project, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent, and who are disproportionately impacted by the bail system; and YMCA, which is a community-based organization that provides programs and services that promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

Black Saints: A History of Faith and Resistance

The history of black saints is a history of faith and resistance. Black saints are those who, despite facing racism, slavery, oppression, and persecution, lived out their Christian vocation with courage, love, and holiness. They are models of discipleship for all Catholics, especially those who share their African heritage and culture.

Some of the earliest black saints were from Africa, where Christianity spread since the first century. St. Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross, was from present-day Libya. Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred for their faith in 203 AD, were from Carthage, Tunisia. St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians and doctors of the Church, was born in Thagaste, Algeria. His mother, St. Monica, was also a saint and a model of prayer and patience.

In later centuries, black saints emerged from other regions of the world, such as Europe and South America. St. Benedict of Palermo, who was born to African slaves in Sicily, became a Franciscan friar and a miracle worker. St. Martin de Porres, who was of mixed race and faced discrimination in Peru, became a Dominican brother and a healer of the sick and the poor. St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan, became a Canossian sister and an advocate for human dignity.

In the United States, there are currently six African American Catholics who have open causes for sainthood. They are:

- Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853), was born a slave in Haiti and became a philanthropist and a leader in the black community in New York City.

- Servant of God Mother Mary Lange (1794-1882), was born in Cuba and founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first American order for women of color.

- Venerable Henriette DeLille (1813-1862), founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of black women who served the elderly, the sick, and the orphaned in Louisiana.

- Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), was born a slave in Missouri and became the first African American priest in the United States.

- Servant of God Julia Greeley (d. 1918), who was born a slave in Missouri and became a lay Franciscan and a servant of the poor in Denver.

- Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), was born in Mississippi and became a Franciscan sister and a teacher, preacher, singer, and activist for racial justice.

These six men and women are examples of how black Catholics have contributed to the Church and society with their faith, service, and resistance. They inspire us to follow Christ in our own time and place, especially when we face challenges or hardships.

Black saints are not only part of our past, but also part of our present and future. They are intercessors for us in heaven and companions for us on earth. They remind us that we are all called to be saints, no matter our race or background. They show us that holiness is possible for everyone.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements, contributions, and struggles of Black people throughout history. It is also a time to reflect on the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality and to learn from the past to shape a better future. 

I hope this blog post has given you some insight into what Black History Month is, how it started, why it is important, and how you can participate in it. Thank you for reading and happy Black History Month!

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