It’s Black History Month, a time of celebrating the journey and accomplishments of African-Americans.
There will be municipal and church events and community gatherings where children will recite speeches and poems, and we’ll recall the sacrifices of those who helped deliver the freedom and rights we enjoy today.
But taken on the surface, it would be easy infer from our annual celebrations and acknowledgements that Black History started in 1492 and ended in 1965.
Yes, we should remember and celebrate the champions of the civil rights era. We should acknowledge the brilliance and passion and persistence of those like Fannie Lou Hamer, who famously said “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired …” and “If I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. …”
Or Frederick Douglass who said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Or Sojourner Truth who said “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!”
These were strong, determined overcomers who had every right to look at their circumstances and declare themselves defeated. But they didn’t. They wouldn’t.
But the source of black pride doesn’t start there. The source of pride for the black man goes back further than the Civil Rights Act, or Jim Crow laws, or the Civil War, or Willie Lynch, or even the slave ships.
There’s a reason Africa is called the cradle of humanity. We come from a society of kings and queens. We’re the descendents of a proud and regal and honorable people, who are strong warriors and hard workers and prolific inventors.
The shame is that the closest modern culture has come to truly celebrating that rich and glorious and ancient heritage is in a superhero movie about a fictional nation called Wakanda.
But make no mistake about it, the heroes of the civil war era -- Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Fred Shuttlesworth, N.Q. Reynolds and too many more to name -- all drew on that rich heritage. They understood that we come from a culture that is worthy of respect and honor and dignity, and they lived and fought and died to honor it.
And they achieved so much.
Today, we can look back and thank them that we have as many rights to education and employment and service in the public square as anyone else -- rights that most of them never got to enjoy.
We honor them because they fought honorably for us.
The question is: What would our ancestors think if they could see us today? What would they think of what we’re doing with the freedoms they never had and we take for granted? Would they feel honored?
What we fail to acknowledge is that we’re making black history today. Every day.
Fifty years from now when Black History Month is celebrated, what will be the content of the speeches and poems? Who will be the heroes who today are making a difference in the world, in this nation, in our communities?
How can we have so much more in terms of opportunities and resources than our grandparents and great-grandparents, and yet we’re accomplishing so much less?
It’s fine to teach our kids to recite speeches and memorize dates and facts about what happened in the ’50s and ’60s. We should never stop doing that. But if we truly want to honor black history, let’s commit to living and walking with dignity and pride and love for each other and our fellow man. Let us channel the kings and queens of our ancestry, and pursue success the way our forefathers pursued freedom.
If we truly want to celebrate Black History Month, let’s be the kind of person who will be celebrated during Black History Month by the next generation.
Anthony Cook is executive editor of Consolidated Publishing. firstname.lastname@example.org.