By Earica Parrish
The idea of Black History Month was necessary during the time of its creation. We should not discount the efforts of Carter G. Woodson in laying the foundations for this and working to have our culture recognized by the masses.
However, what significance will our history hold if we do not only educate ourselves on it? How will we be able to preserve our history if we do not learn and internalize it, and ensure that we are continuing the work of our predecessors in our everyday life?
I was recently invited back to my high school to speak to parents of prospective high school students about my transition from high school to college, and life as a college graduate.
In the room filled with black parents and children, a man rose his hand to ask question about the portrait hanging behind me and the other panelist before we proceeded with the discussion.
“Excuse me, but is that a picture of Madame C.J. Walker?”
I turned around, and glanced at the portrait.
“My wife and I have been going back and forth about it,” the man continued, “and I keep telling her it’s Madame C.J. Walker. But I wanted to ask to make sure.”
I turned back around, and I immediately told him “Sir, that’s Ida B. Wells.”
I looked to my fellow panelist to see if they were even aware of who Ida B. Wells was, and the two students who were sitting with me also didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was.
“I just thought she was really good at taking selfies,” one of the students said.
I’m no historian, but I thought that was such a basic history fact. I assumed that everyone knew of Ida B. Wells, as well as the famous portrait.
She was a journalist, activist and suffragist in her own right.
But then it hit me: I had to take into consideration that the history of our people was strategically filtered and censored for centuries, and is still being altered in real time.
When I think about black history, I think about how much of it was erased and retold through history books — glorifying the “founding fathers” of this country and their successors.
I think of how much of my own culture I don’t really know much about, due to annihilation of identity and humanity by white supremacists onto my ancestors. I think of all the black artists, writers, abolitionists and freedom fighters that paved the way for us to see college campuses, and to be able to work towards our dreams.
#DidYouKnow Ida B. Wells-Barnett challenged discrimination and sexism, exposed injustice, and fought for equality. Born into slavery in 1862, Wells-Barnett grew up in Mississippi. After her parents died, when she was 16, she became a teacher. Despite having a ticket, Wells-Barnett was thrown off a first-class train; after this incident she turned to writing and pointing out injustices. She wrote scathing articles decrying the scourge of lynching. Her expose about an 1892 lynching enraged locals who burned her press and drove her from Memphis. She relocated to Chicago and became very active in the suffrage movement. #WomensHistory #IdaBWells #suffrage #womensrights #blackhistorymonth #blackexcellence
Although it may seem we are better off than we were years ago, there are still power struggles that exist today. Systemic racial oppression has remained salient over time, in order to protect the status and interest of white elites.
Institutions such as schools, prisons and real estate still practice racism in a more subtle, discreet form. We cannot depend on these institutions to educate us on our people and depend on them any longer for the keys to our freedom.
People fear it, ignore it and attempt try to minimize its significance everyday.
You might be that person that’s like, “Oh, February’s just another month. Black history should be celebrated daily.” Or you’re the one that believes Black History Month is a racist concept, and that all of history should be recognized and celebrated.
Either way you spin it, blackness and all of its essence is at the very heart of this country and is deeply rooted in the history of the world as we know it. Black people are the culture, the soul and the rhythm of everything you see, hear, consume, and so on.
We are history, and that’s just not going to change — no matter how hard others try to discredit us.