Black History Month, African-American history Carter, 4Culture Executive Director
All the way out to north bend – and i was asked today to talk about the significance of black history month to me and also to this community, so i’ll just start with where black history month originated. For me, i grew up in this small central washington town of yakuma and within the traditional um like public school curriculum. There was not a lot of black history that was taught in the history courses or social studies courses, so black history month each year was an opportunity for me to learn more about my own culture when that was not part of the formal education agenda, and so You know every year there would be an assembly or there would be some type of performance that we would participate in in celebration of black history month, but that was never enough for me and i was very lucky in that i had a father who anytime i Had questions or i was curious, we would go to the library and he would say a lot of the answers are here so often times during black history month. I wouldn’t be satisfied with the typical assembly at the school. My dad would take me down to the library, and we would then pull out additional texts about um, whether it was local african american history or national african american history or leaders, and it was always to to augment to supplement what i felt was a deficit in The cultural experience that i was having so those are always special times for me and they didn’t only happen during february.
It just seems that was the time. I was most unhappy with the study that i was getting in school because i knew there was so much more than the 45 minute assembly or um like cultural performance that happened during that month. So it’s also a really special time for me and also for my father, um, so that’s kind of my early. You know experiences with black history month and then, as i got older. What i really love about black history month is its origin story and a lot of people just aren’t, really aware of the way in which black history month started um. It was started by a historian, a harvard trained historian, named carter g woodson, and he had an organization um that is now known as asala. But it was an organization that studied african american history and culture and life, and this organization actually had um written materials um. They had like it was like a magazine that shared african american history and culture and carter g woodson wanted to make sure that that magazine had a wide circulation, and so he was struggling in doing that and what he did is. He came up with the idea that we were going to have a black history week and he utilized the publicity around that black history week to sell this magazine that the asala organization produced and the reason that i love. That story is that. I firmly believe that each and every year there’s an opportunity for black history.
What was then week what is now month to actually help the black community in a meaningful and significant way. So there is the element always of celebration of one’s past one’s, community’s past um. The stories the narratives, the people, the places the events – i i totally believe in that i think it is so important for both cultural competence, but also cultural pride, that you have those celebrations, but as a historian, i always believe that one must use the stories of The past to both illuminate present conditions, but also to improve present conditions and that’s what i loved about carter g woodson, underneath that kind of dissemination and celebration of black history was also this practical i’ve got this organization we’re doing research we’re getting stories out there, but We need money. How can i utilize the stories and the excitement of the past and of our history to actually bring about like a more, i think, fruitful and necessary economic condition for this particular organization that i’m involved with. So i love the fact that there was this kind of like practical logistical, like really pragmatic approach to the start of what was black history week and then became black history month. And i think the lesson in that, for me is what are the ways each year that we’re looking at how stories of the past, specifically those within the black community can be utilized can be harnessed, can be leveraged to make a critical change at this particular moment, And so for me, when i think about black history month in 2021, that is the question: how can the stories of my past my family’s past uh my community’s past? How can be those being used? How can the power within them be tapped to hopefully deal with like really salient issues and problems and opportunities that the black community and larger society faces today and so that’s? My hope, with this project, um that’s happening at the museum, is that the stories that are surfaced – let them inspire you – let them be a celebration of black life and black stories which touch all of us, but try in your own way to find that avenue that Allows you to apply those stories to the needs of the community today and those are vast and varied.
It could be around education, it could be around housing, it could be around health but find ways that those amazing right people who came before us and the lives that they lived.