Beyond February: The Everlasting Impact of Black History Month

    Since childhood, the ideals and importance of Black History Month have been instilled in the minds of Black American youth. As soon as the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on February 1, there is a concerted effort to remind everyone in this “great nation” of the United States of America that Black leaders—free thinkers, scholars, scientists, religious leaders, philosophers, activists and many others—have played an indispensable role in building the foundation of the country we know today. Despite our stories being often harshly edited, or outright erased, we make it our duty to ensure the reminder that, without them, where would we be now?

    When I searched online for “What is Black History Month?” I found this answer: February is Black History Month. Institutions such as the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join together to pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who overcame adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

    This polished response, however, merely glosses over the profound significance of the month—not only to past civil rights leaders but also to today’s and tomorrow’s trailblazers. Black History Month war- rants celebration and will persist as a vital moment of unity for all, regardless of their recognition of its significance, because it represents a legacy of transformation and perseverance embedded within the Black community since their forced arrival on this land.

    Consider the harrowing thought of being uprooted from one’s homeland, family and culture, only to be enslaved and stripped of all rights, with scarcely any freedom to think, breathe and exist. Against tremendous odds, our ancestors endeavored to fight for our freedoms and to author a new narrative marked by courage, bravery and love—a narrative that elevates Black history to a daily celebration, not confined to February alone.

    Steeped in greatness

    There isn’t a moment that passes without today’s society unearthing another hidden figure who played a pivotal role in shaping American history, technology and literature. Without our Black innovators, who defied norms and fought for the recognition of their contributions, what would the USA be like today?

    Yet we have formally acknowledged all this for less than a century: Negro History Week was instituted in 1926 and was expanded to Black History Month only in the 1970s. Honoring those remarkable humans who gave their blood, sweat and tears to giving us a future embodied with freedoms and rights to stand amongst the privileged as equals is well overdue. Although we still face a multitude of adversities, the essence and remembrance of how far we have come makes it clear that we have so much more to embark on in understanding, acknowledging and honoring the foundations of what Black History Month is and will continue to be in America.

    Black history is a continuous discovery, an ongoing celebration and an active part of life as Black creatives, athletes, leaders and business owners continue to break new ground. With all our technological advancements, we are only now uncovering ties of Black lineage to ancient Egypt—yes, braids and Afros among the pharaohs and high priestesses.

    RELATED: Black History Month: Recognizing Voices Making a Difference

    In the words of Pimp C, “The reason why we like this—this jewelry and these diamonds and stuff—they don’t understand, it’s because we’re really from Africa. That’s where all this stuff comes from. We originated from kings…”

    In a world that still attempts to silence our Black women and imprison our Black men, the legacy of Black history—beyond just the month of February—empowers our communities to believe that our bloodline is steeped in greatness. Despite the constant challenges we face in our existence today, our ancestors faced even worse and yet rose to become emblematic figures and statues that represent change and hope for a better tomorrow.

    To be Black is to be endowed with the talents and potential of a lineage that has produced such brilliance, you need to wear sunglasses just to soak in its glory. That’s Black excellence. It shapes my mindset. It’s the reason we should always honor February and every day thereafter. The most affirming yet profound statement I have found to get through every day is addressing myself starting with the most simple yet powerful reminder that: “My Black is… everything.”

    Joshua David graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in business. He currently resides in Los Angeles and serves as Head of Digital Media at WayMaker Media. He previously worked with brands like Ebony Magazine, Roc Nation, YouTube and ABC.

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