Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. It is also a time where we recognize the key roles African Americans played in U.S. history. In 1976, President Gerald Ford designated February as Black History Month. Today, countries all over the world also dedicate a month to celebrating Black History Month.
1. It celebrates diversity.
Black History Month does not just promote diversity; it celebrates diversity. Promoting diversity is bringing awareness to the idea that we are all diverse and we all have something to contribute. But when we celebrate diversity, we are conveying the idea that diversity is beautiful.
A celebration goes beyond recognizing the achievements of African Americans. It publicly honors these men and women. It tells their wonderful stories in a way that makes us realize how they have impacted our lives—how our lives would not be the same if these people did not take risks to accomplish amazing things.
At Chase Oaks, we believe that we are a salad and not a soup: “We are intentionally diverse, believing that the mix of generations, ethnicities, and cultures helps create the rich and surprising unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.”
And we believe in celebrating this diversity. We believe that God created all people to do great things and that we are supposed to come together to do great things for Him and His purposes.
2. It unites us.
Celebrating diversity and recognizing its beauty brings us together. It helps us learn about people from different cultures and backgrounds. It helps us understand how we are all connected. And finding this connection unites us.
Doesn’t it feel good when family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors get together to celebrate you and your achievements? Don’t you feel connected when a group of people from all areas of your life come together to celebrate a graduation, birthday, or promotion?
These celebrations bring you together. And you can’t help but feel joy when you see people from different walks of life or different parts of the family (that don’t necessarily get along) put aside their differences to celebrate you.
This is what celebrating special months or days of the year can do to a larger group of people. When we celebrate the achievements of people groups and cultures from around the world, we are putting aside our opinions and differences to commemorate our shared history and to take joy in each other’s success.
When we celebrate one another, we realize how our differences can actually bring us together rather than tear us apart.
3. It takes us beyond the history books.
Throughout school, we take some form of history: World History, U.S. History, and European History. Typically, in our history textbooks, we focus on the “major players.” Oftentimes, they leave out lesser-known figures that have accomplished incredible things.
Rather than letting the history books tell us who is important, we can celebrate special months like Black History Month to give us an opportunity to learn about other historical figures that have impacted our lives and world.
Lewis Howard Latimer and Elijah McCoy
For example, in history class, you probably have studied about Thomas Edison and the light bulb. But do you remember a guy by the name of Lewis Howard Latimer? He created a carbon filament to make the light bulb last longer and safer to use, making the light bulb practical and affordable for everyday use.
Or what about Elijah McCoy, who secured over 50 patents in his lifetime? He invented everything from the locomotive lubricator to the lawn sprinkler. Actually, “the real McCoy” is a common phrase that means, “the real thing,” which is still used today.
Ida Wells and Benjamin Davis, Jr.
And even if we celebrate the figures written into our history books, we can take the time to learn about their lives beyond the book.
In history, you might have learned Ida B. Wells was a prominent journalist and activist and an early leader of the Civil Rights Movement. You might have even learned that she was one of the founders of the NAACP.
But you might not know that she was an orphan from the age of 14 and took a teaching job to keep her brothers and sisters together. Or that she was forced to flee Memphis to escape a mob of protesters when she started an anti-lynching campaign.
You might have heard about Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the first African American general in the history of the U.S. Air Force and how he led the famous Tuskegee airmen. But you might not know much about his earlier units he led when he was just beginning his career. Or that he helped lead the way for desegregation in the Air Force.
Going beyond the books paints us a different picture of history. It reveals a much richer history with a more colorful background.
4. It helps us understand the importance of our stories.
Black History Month is about sharing and celebrating the stories of countless men and women who made a difference in our world. Some achievements are noted more than others. But all of their stories reveal how they changed the world. And how we can, too.
Join us this month as we celebrate the achievements of important men and women in history and as we discover the beauty of diversity. Stay tuned to our Facebook for the stories that continue to impact us today.