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Why Is Black History Month Important?

What is Black History Month one might ask? Do black folks suddenly find their voice and gain a new persona in the month of February? Do we have to box up this new persona after the month of February? Lest we forget, February is the shortest month of the year. What becomes of our blackness and our history in the other 11 months of the year? Questions, questions, questions!

My answer to this is that we continue on the journey of creating our present and our future as a collective in the other 336 or 337 days of the year. We forge ahead in those other days and months; empowered through remembrance and with re-dedicated vigor because of our celebration of black history.

Black History Month is one set aside to reflect on the struggles we have been through as a people. This celebration of our heritage has its roots in the United States and eventually Canada.

Both the United States of America and Canadian governments have officially recognized February as Black History Month. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands unofficially recognize this month as one set aside to give credence to our heritage as black people.

I would like to focus a little on what Black History Month means for me individually. I am black and proud and beautiful in my true melanin 365 days, 24 hrs round the clock and 7 days of the week. I express myself through African fashion and you will more often than not find me jamming to Afro-beats when my headphones are on. Although I have lived in North America for over 22 years, most of the cuisine served around my dinner table centers around a traditional diet. I am strongly rooted in my black community because I am an ardent believer in the concept of community.

Being a member of a strong community has benefited me in good and in bad times.

My commitment is to continue every day of my life to strive to build up people through mentorship, volunteering and being present in order to spread love. My hope is that these efforts are the building blocks for a stronger community, which I implore you to also consider.

Personally, I look at Black History Month as a chance to preach love, peace, and acceptance. A chance to remind the world of who we were, where we came from and who we are right now. It’s a chance to educate and show the world our scars not in a "we-are-angry" kind of way. But in a "listen to our journey and past”; "these were our obstacles along the way"; "see me shine against all odds"; and "hear me roar" kind of way.

It is a time to show the world where we are going collectively. Black History Month is not about segregating "the others".

It is a beautiful experience of celebrating our journey as a people. A month-long celebration of ourselves which by no means ends with the last day of February.

We continue to work as a collective and celebrate as we please in the other months of the year. We deserve it!

My family ancestry is not directly rooted in the slavery experience but my ancestry has borne the burden of loss when our children, wives, and husbands were ripped away from our bosoms and left our community deprived of the joy of hearing their laughter during tales by moonlight in the village square. My ancestry suffered the pain of no longer feeling the joy of knowing that our fathers were coming home each evening with harvest to fill our growling bellies. We watched as our protectors were stripped of their pride.

The pain and shame rendering us immobile as our protectors were taken from us. Whole kingdoms were thrown into turmoil not knowing what tomorrow would bring. The pain, tears and the suffering left behind is as real as the crack of the whips on the backs of our stolen loved ones. There is a brokenness in my ancestry because of the void and confusion left behind with the silence of the voices taken away from our community.

Many in our community were taken across angry oceans into the United States while those of us left behind were enslaved by colonial masters. The strife in our black community still remains to this day. The human experience for a black person might differ in some respects but there are so many commonalities. I often look forward to Black History Month to act as a balm of sorts to soothe our wounds even within our own camp.

I remember when I moved to Edmonton in 2009, it seemed like so few people who looked like me. I would give the big smile and head nod as soon as I spotted someone who looked like me. Finding colorful, smart pieces of clothing in cheerful print to fit my full breasts and just as full hips were annoyingly few. Traditional foods that I wanted had to be purchased all the way across on the other side of town.

Black history events were few and far between. Even those were often not hosted and celebrated by us, for us. Look at our community now! Bursting with choice! From the visual arts to dance to storytelling to music to fashion to culinary experiences to pop quizzes for our children! All chances for us to learn about us as told by us. Every celebration, a chance to educate the world about who we really are and the mettle we are collectively made of.

Hence why it was so refreshing to see the ‘Rise up Black Women’ Brunch hosted by BCW in Action on February 15th, 2020. The panel discussion with 4 affluent Black women in Alberta sharing their perspective on how we can collectively advance as black women in today’s society and pushing against the status quo was empowering to all in attendance and encourages action from each one of us.

I am a black female. Born and raised in Nigeria; educated by parents who both received degrees in the United States (US). I immigrated to the US as a black female at 19. I have lived the black experience in the United States and later in Canada. We may want to be agreeable and act as though there are no more injustices and the world is a fair place but unfortunately; it is not. I have worked in various spheres dealing with social justice issues. Black people are considered a minority and we do not have a level playing field.

Black History Month reminds me of this and is a motivation yet again, to stretch a hand downwards or sideways to pull up my sisters and brothers so that more of us can climb up the proverbial ladder. Our brothers and sisters with higher status and or titles also need our support to remain high on the ladder. It often gets quite lonely at the top.

Needless to say, as black women, we all have a part to play in keeping Black History alive the other days and months of the year. For this reason, we need to collectively join the mission of spreading love, and that starts with self first and foremost. We are strong and steeped in a heritage filled with giants. Giants who overcame. Therefore, we must rise on the shoulders of black giants so that the generations that follow can also rise on our black, capable shoulders.

~BCW in Action

Written by: Nwamaka Agbakoba | CEO, Knotty Musings | IG: @knotty_musings *Edited by: Kim-Ann Wilson, Marketing Director, BCW in Action

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