The second month of 2021 brings us the celebration of Black History Month. But what does that mean? Why do we take these 28 — sometimes 29 — days to recognize the culture, the heritage, the struggle? Well, for many of us, it is a time to reflect who we are as people of color here on this planet, what our ancestors have gone through, what we ourselves experience in our own lives. It is a spotlight on achievements, possibilities and hope for our futures. February is that period of time when we can reach out to others and share that much more of what our Black heritage means to our very depth of being.
This powerful expression of “me-ness” doesn’t just belong to Black History Month. Every heritage month opens a door of opportunity to better understand what makes each of us unique and special. A way to share our culture, ideals, and individuality with those who come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientation, genders, and races. It may seem counterintuitive to separate out those who wish to be embraced as equal as a means of bringing together but think a moment: where we come from means something. Our culture defines us in the best possible way and to be able to celebrate that so as to broaden minds, offer deeper understanding and create connections rather than division is beautiful.
We celebrate Black History Month and every heritage month for the same reason. We are proud of who we are and the accomplishments made and the possibilities on the horizon. It is a way to pay homage to those who are too often marginalized on a daily basis and to remind people that “We are here” and not just get used to it, but appreciate it. The beauty of every human being is far deeper than what the eyes can see and each of these months in the year highlights that truth in those of us who frequently get noticed only for what is on the outside.
Bonding through our differences
Sharing pieces of ourselves with others to create a bond is an incredible experience. When we sit down and listen to the stories of the lives around us, eat the foods of the cultures different from ours, or hear the music, see the art, read the literature, or watch a performance reflecting those distinct traits or beliefs, we not only learn what makes us unique but also what makes us similar. Discovering that everyone goes through struggle in one way or another, each of us have some triumphs along the way, hurdles to overcome, successes, failures, joys and sorrows reminds us we are not alone. Every human experiences happiness and heartache, misery and delight. Those moments in each of our lives may be different and may come from a unique place to us, but they resonate across great divides.
“It’s beautiful. And I think it’s what I want to be…”
It’s not easy being viewed as “different.” The weight is heavy, the load is big, and the hills and valleys of that burden are difficult to navigate at times. Over the last year, we have seen how those views have come to a head, dividing some of us even further, creating calls for change, and hopes for better understanding. And yet, this disparity has brought some who never knew they would be walking hand-in-hand together. There was something in the stories, the sorrows, the situations that spoke to a common bond and goal, and a deeper understanding of who we each are and how we can engage rather than repel began in a very unique way.
Today we begin our celebration of Black History Month. Like all other months set aside to acknowledge those who are too often overlooked or treated as “other,” it reminds us that the beauty of our perceived differences is that they are what makes us so wonderfully human.