The Importance of Black History Month
Not too long ago, I was asked a question that challenged the way I examined my life and cultural background: “Should we, as Americans, continue to celebrate Black History Month (BHM)?” For many, the answer is obvious—yes! In fact, many would continue this answer by suggesting that since February is the shortest month of the year, it cannot fully encapsulate the achievements of the African-American community. Others, within the African-American community, do not see the purpose of this month, explaining that it only reminds them of the hardship that we, as a people, have faced. Speaking for myself, I find strong reasons for its relevance and purpose in today’s day and age. I am African-American. I grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area, attending churches and schools that were predominately black. Before arriving here at Andrews to study for my Master of Divinity, I attended Oakwood University, a historically black university. As you could imagine, in my life, Black History Month spread beyond the month of February to everyday life. My African-American upbringing does not mean that I have been brainwashed to believe that the world revolves around me and my culture; these experiences have taught me to embrace people from other cultural backgrounds as well.
In viewing this past year’s election season, with the selection of our current United States President, Donald Trump, the racial tension between Caucasians and African-Americans has provided the means to how one can answer the question in the affirmative. BHM presents a constant reminder of the accomplishments of African-Americans. In a nation where the African-American male is looked down upon, I believe that this month gives the young black male a “shot of energy” and allows him to refocus in identifying his identity, life purpose and the contribution that he can make within his very own community. This racial tension is not secluded to the governmental realm, but also exists within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In light of this, I find that BHM also serves as a reminder of the things that God has been able to do through the African-American community in its relationship to our church’s growth and development. Many would suggest that BHM, as well as the continuation of Regional Conferences for that matter, presents the idea of justifiable racial separation. However, I would like to suggest that the use of Regional Conferences has provided a proven vehicle in which minorities in urban communities can be ministered to. I would further suggest that the elimination of such vehicles, suggesting that they are no longer needed, would also suggest that institutions of learning which cater to the African-American race are no longer needed as well. Lastly, I would like to suggest that BHM allows the students of this campus to embrace the ethnic differences that are present. Just like no two snowflakes are alike, African-Americans are different in their cultural backgrounds and upbringing. From the Afro-Caribbean to the African-American, I believe BHM allows us to revisit the stories of what makes black people uniquely different.