Happy Black History Month, Amsterdam News readers. How will you make the most of this short month? If you have fallen short on your New Year’s resolutions, I always like to use the beginning of the new month as a reset—and no better month than February, when we celebrate the excellence of Black people throughout the diaspora, to add (or subtract) certain things to your life.
Many of you know that Carter G. Woodson initiated the first iteration of what we now celebrate. Woodson established Negro History Week on Feb. 7, 1926. Throughout the years, the acknowledgment and celebrations have led to what we now know as Black History Month.
As the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” I like to make my Black History Month celebrations diasporic, in that I like to include the contributions of Black Americans, as well as Afro-Caribbeans and Africans, in the United States and abroad. I also like to take time to recognize and celebrate people who are still alive and making contributions for a better and more just and equitable society.
I also like to recognize people who may quietly go about their jobs without much fuss or fanfare, but are making the lives of so many people that much better. During Black History Month, we can celebrate our teachers and the janitors who keep our buildings clean and running smoothly. We can celebrate the bus driver or subway conductor who gets us to our destination safely, or the garbage collectors who keep our communities clean.
I often think of the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he told us, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” No matter our occupation, we can contribute to the collective efforts of making Black History Month a true celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of Black people, no matter where they are or what they do for a living.
How do you plan on celebrating this month? Will you research a famous Black person and learn more about them and their contributions? Will you go out of your way to recognize someone in your community who is doing the silent work of keeping your neighborhood clean and safe? Will you contribute to a Black-led organization so they can continue doing their work and training future leaders? Will you take time to recognize the ways in which you contribute to Black History?
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.