“Black history matters to everyone – it’s a crucial part of our nations’ story.”
One can tell a great deal about people, about a nation, by what it deems necessary enough to remember: what graces the walls of its galleries? What elements of a country’s identity are featured in its national museums? What images appear on their currency, and what holidays are celebrated?
I would suggest, however, that one learns even more by examining what a nation chooses to forget. What sins of the past, what decisions, and what groups are omitted from the national memory reveal not only a great deal about a nation’s history but about its current political and societal concerns.
The challenges of the past and the burden of forgetting weighs heavily on a nation’s subconscious. The UK and in the United States’ history and the experiences of its black citizens been forgotten or undervalued.
Despite the time difference in their creation, Black History in the US and the UK share a shared vision and purpose: to battle a sense of historical amnesia and remind all citizens that black people were also a contributing part of the nation.
Both were envisioned as a way to counter the invisibility of black people and to challenge the negative imagery and stereotypes that were often the only manner black people were portrayed in popular culture and in the media.
By highlighting stories of black achievement and resilience, the season would focus a nation’s attention on the positive aspects of black life that were barely visible.
The goal was twofold: to inspire and instill pride of self and community among young black people; and to help each country confront the problem of racial discrimination through greater understanding, by making the black past accessible and meaningful to the broader white community.
Educating those outside the black community was always a central focus of these celebrations. Simply providing inspiration is not enough to justify the means: its purpose needs clarifying, and its message needs fine-tuning.
The history that is shared often focuses on the famous or the exceptional. Which, in some ways, makes it difficult for many to relate to. While we should know the lives of Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks, we should also recognize those often left out of our narrative of celebrity, such as those who labored in the textile mills in the north of England, or those who participated in the Bristol bus boycott.
Focusing on these contributions and sacrifices would help black people prove their worthiness as citizens. And by challenging those notions, an environment could be created that was more conducive to combating racism.
After all, the black community has shaped and informed aspects of identity that touch the entirely of its citizenry. In essence, the period is both an examination of a people’s journey and a nation’s story.
Here is another article you can read and educate yourself and others about the incidents that took place long ago.
Credit goes to nbc.news.com