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How I Celebrated Black History Month

It was about February 15th before I realized I hadn’t put any effort into celebrating Black History Month outside of reposting some memes. Honestly, it was an Instagram post I shared that made me realize I was coming up short. I’m no stranger to black history being a black woman in America. I am Nina Simone’s mantra, James Brown’s anthem, I am black black.

button says: I Am Black History

So, when February 15th hit I ran across this post “10 Things White People Can Do To Celebrate Black History Month” It is a wonderful list that, quite frankly, should be practised by black people as well. I added my commentary on a couple of the list items, but it struck me that I hadn’t done much anything tangible myself.

I looked at my schedule and decided to do a few things.

First, I continued to read through Jesus and the Disinherited a book by black author and theologian Howard Thurman. I kindled this book after a screening of Backs Against the Wall, a documentary on the life of Thurman, in January. It is shameful that I didn’t know more about Thurman or his work, he is often called the father of the civil rights movement and was MLK’s mentor. Thurman’s work is important because of the ‘white savior‘ complex. Most of our doctrines and practices as Christians have been handed down and taught by white males in US history. In most cases, if our black preachers went to seminary they still studied under white teachers. Admittedly, there have been issues there. I am encouraged my Thurman’s work and his mysticism.

Secondly, I had to go to a black church. By all regards most people would call my current church ‘black,’ but my conservative southern Baptist insides really wanted to go home. Luckily, I live right down the street from Mount Moriah Baptist Church, a historically black church founded in 1885. I was invited to the church last summer by a lady that introduced herself while I was on the bus, but it’s hard getting to another church when you’re serving at your own! I toughed it out on the last Sunday of the month and woke up bright and early to walk to 8am service. The service was everything my childhood was. Ushers sporting a kente cloth over their white and black suits…a black history reading by the youth…ALL three verses of Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Singing the Negro National Anthem brought me to tears. I’ve sang the song my entire life, proudly knowing all the words after singing it in a talent competition when I was seven, but this time… This time it was like the words were dripping down my face like sweat. It is my experience. Johnson wrote my entire life. “Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod”…he knew exactly what I would be going through, what our nation would be going through right now. Though I was overly emotional, I managed to keep it together since I was a visitor and didn’t know anyone.

Thirdly, my friend Mark hosted a Black History Month program and it was wonderfully curated and executed. I really appreciated their effort to make the event a personal reflection as well as educational. Since I missed all of the city’s programming for BHM this was timely and I was happy to support. Growing up, most of our BHM programs included one or two white people, mostly representatives from city council. I am grateful the program attendees were diverse and that the young had come to learn from an elder.

Fourth and finally, I told people how I was celebrating black history month. What is the point of having a dedicated month if you aren’t celebrating and sharing. It’s truly about the stories, about our city’s history, and about our role today. Over the month as I shared I found that people who have lived in DC for years have never visited the Frederick Douglass house, others never knew there is a Negro National Anthem, and others (like myself) had no clue who Howard Thurman was. I was able to help educate others by sharing my month perpetuating the many positives of the African American experience despite abysmal effort from mainstream media to do so.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

Published in Personal Sports and Society


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