February, as Black History Month, is dedicated to highlighting important accomplishments of black activists, leaders, and just anyone in our community whose voices would otherwise would not be uplifted and silenced. Yet as great as this month is, I can’t help but feel at least a little bit of bitterness towards it all.
“Shouldn’t you be excited?” people tell me. “I mean, it’s Black History Month and you’re black.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I’m not glad we have Black History Month, but I know there are some things we could do better as far as representation and celebration goes during this month.
Growing up, I felt like the main black activists that were talked about were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. It wasn’t until I got older that I really began to learn about the lives and experiences of other important black figures, like Ida B. Wells and Angela Davis. This was when I began to really learn about what blackness really meant.
It was when I finally started going beyond the basis of black education that I began to truly appreciate the beauty of what is known as Black History.
As important as it is, Black History Month should be about more than just reflecting on the past. We should see more celebrations of our important figures of today. We need to go beyond just teaching our kids and ourselves about the tokenized handful, and really expand into telling them about the voices that aren’t as heard.
Instead of allowing our school systems to simply teach their students about the glorious end of slavery along with some sweet-sounding MLK quotes so they can pat themselves on the back, we need to go above and beyond.
We need to show young kids of all backgrounds and races just how much there is to Black History. There also needs to be an extra emphasis on the voice of black LGBT activists and black women.
In early February, I went on Twitter and saw what was honestly the best thing I had seen on social media in a long time. The hashtag #blackhistorymonth emerged on Twitter, highlighting so many different experiences and accomplishments from so many important figures of color. Being able to see all those stories being shared online seriously made such a difference with how I experienced black history month this year. This was the first time that I really felt like I could see myself in
As I continue to enjoy using hashtags like #blackhistorymonth and #blackgirlmagic, I can’t help think of all the little black girls out there who haven’t tapped into the Internet jackpot I’ve been lucky enough to find yet.
So, what exactly do I want out of this celebratory month? I want the usual “12 Years a Slave” showings and Martin Luther King documentaries, but I also want Proud Family reruns and musician highlights on MTV. I want every black person, of every age, gender, and sexuality to feel like their voice is being celebrated during this month. I want to be able to have fun during this month and not have all of it feel so serious and solemn.
In the past, I’ve thought that I have a certain obligation to like something related to my identity. I’ve felt that I am not allowed to criticize it or say that there are certain things I would like to change about it. But if we don’t criticize anything we have, how are we going to improve?
Now, excuse me while I go reblog gifs of Nicki Minaj while watching “The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.”