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Rethinking Black History Month

Every year Americans take a month to celebrate the legacy of black leaders, commemorate significant black historical events and examine the influence of black culture in the United States. Since I came to this country a decade ago, I have seen the changes that have occurred to this month, as well as the growth that has occurred within me which has allowed me to view this month differently every year.

Black History gets a whole month to be discussed and celebrated. It is a time where blacks in the United States can honor their roots, embrace their heritage and celebrate the successes of their race.

However, as time continues to pass, things change and society evolves. How do black Americans today celebrate Black History Month? Throughout the years, Black History in the United States has only expanded its complexity. It is no longer about celebrating the roots of the African ancestors that were brought into the country as slaves. It is much more than that.

Not all African-Americans carry such ties with their African heritage. Some identify with their closer generations such as black Americans whose parents immigrated from Haiti identifying as Haitian-American, as opposed to African-Americans due to their African ancestors. More importantly, not all blacks in the United States identify with African descent at all.

During a time where African-Americans are supposed to celebrate their ties to their roots and heritage, how many of them actually feel tied to their African roots? A lot of blacks in the United States identify as just that, black and American. So why is their history separated from the rest of America’s history?

How do we celebrate Black History Month? Do we celebrate the advances that a race has made throughout the decades: from slavery, to civil rights, to today? How do we commemorate all of the Black influential leaders, without shining light on the usual like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, while leaving aside the underdogs like Edward Bouchet and Bessie Coleman, who are just as important to black history as the rest?

I must say, out of all of the months in the year Black History Month is one that educates me and entertains me most. I love hearing about the Civil Rights Movement over and over again. One can never learn enough. It touches me deeply to study the struggle of humans, who were once considered property, and see their progress to becoming powerful political leaders in the same country.

As much as I love Black History Month, I wish it wasn’t limited to just a month. I wish African roots were embraced every day. I wish people were curious about their heritage, African or not, and commemorated their leaders every day. By having Black History Month are we now just separating Black history from U.S. history?

Like the famous black actor Morgan Freeman said eight years ago: “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

With that, my celebration of black history will extend beyond February.

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