Northwest Missourian Opinion

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela’s quote perfectly captures the essence of what Black History Month is supposed to be. Black history is celebrated to increase the understanding of a misrepresented people. Black history itself won’t change the world, but it inspires the future leaders to spark that change.

As we conclude this year’s celebration of African American history, it would be wise for all of us to reflect on what we’ve learned from this month. Whether you learned about history outside the lens of whitewashing, listened to someone’s experience as a Black American or simply watched a movie with a predominantly Black cast, you helped Carter G. Woodson accomplish his goal of educating the masses about Black achievements.

As we’re in the shortest month of the year, there’s no time to fit in centuries of sidelined stories. Luckily, Black history isn’t restricted to the confines of February.

Every day, I live the life of a Black man. Every day, I have the opportunity to make my own history and learn from previous examples of excellence. It’s not like I’m Black for only one month of the year.

With that being said, the efforts to learn about the Black community shouldn’t cease as the clock strikes midnight on March 1. During Black History Month, there’s an abundance of African American representation across social media, TV commercials and programs, billboards, etc.

It’s a little easier to learn something new during February, but what about the other months? Here’s a couple ways to turn your year into a Black History year.

Do your own research. It’s likely that you’ll hear something from a Black friend or overhear something happening in the Black community that you’re not too informed about. Taking a moment to search something you overhear in a conversation will only make you a more well-rounded and well-educated individual. I highly encourage typing “African American inventors” into Google. You’ll be surprised at what common items were made or improved by Black people.

Visit a historic Black landmark. I think one of the most influential road trips of my life was when I traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, and visited the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Formerly the F.W. Woolworth’s retail store, this museum was the first time I saw the ghost-like robes of the Ku Klux Klan. If the robes themselves weren’t haunting enough, the blood stains splattered on the masks really drove home the reality of America’s past. That’s only one of the many exhibits the museum has to offer. Seeing things like this just compels you to consider the truth behind American history.

Make friends with people who don’t look like you. Believe it or not, the best way to learn something in a topic is to be a part of it. I’m definitely not saying to be friends with Black people out of guilt or desire to fulfill a transactional relationship. I’m just saying, information is easier to learn when it hits closer to home. You’ll feel more intrigued to learn Black history when it can deepen a connection with someone you already know.

Black History Month is about the celebration of being Black. For someone who’s Black everyday, the celebration is closer to a yearlong appreciation. It’s time to normalize being Black for more than a month.

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