On February 1, our nation recognizes the contributions of #AfricanAmericans by marking Black History Month. When I think about the stories I've heard on the news, stories from my own family's history, or my own neighborhood, I'm struck with the resilience of the many in this community. And I'm frustrated that for some, this annual event is considered all that "should be done" for people who have lived under oppression for so long.
I can't begin to fathom any number of challenges faced on any given day; discrimination, the fear of "driving while black," dismissal or overlooking of one's personhood based on skin color, or the ignorance and "discomfort" that is expected to be accepted and carried by any POC. The weight of what is faced on any given day...well, the image that comes to mind is nothing less than shackled hands breaking free.
I'm no expert...
I could never presume to say that I understand. I don't. I can't begin to imagine the heartache faced by my friends simply because of the #melanin in their skin. But I can do this...I can create a piece of #handlettered #art that hopefully portrays the noble action of #breakingfree from the bonds of #ignorance and #apathy...something that could hopefully inspire us all to do our part in making this #onenation, under God, with #liberty and #justice FOR ALL!
So now, a little history about Black History Month (full disclosure; I'm certain I'm missing so much here).
A Brief History
In February, we recognize Black History Month in the United States and Canada, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. The observance originated in the United States as "Negro History Week," founded by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Over the years, the celebration has evolved from a week-long observance to a month-long celebration, recognized nationally in 1986. The focus of Black History Month has also expanded over time to include a broader range of topics, such as the history of African American businesses, the Civil Rights Movement, and African American contributions to arts and culture.
One of the more prominent figures in African American history is Harriet Tubman. She was an abolitionist and humanitarian known for her bravery, leadership, and determination. As a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses that helped escaped enslaved people reach freedom in the North, Tubman helped hundreds of enslaved people escape to freedom. She was also an advocate for women's rights and suffrage and served as a spy, cook, and nurse for the Union army during the Civil War. Her contributions to black culture and history are significant. She remains an inspiring figure to this day, recognized for her courage, perseverance, and tireless efforts to fight for freedom and justice.
Building on Harriet and others’ brave sacrifice and struggle, black-owned businesses have continued to grow, significantly contributing to the African American community, and are hallmarks of industry in the global economy. Notable companies include:
BET (Black Entertainment Television), founded by Robert Johnson and one of the largest African-American-owned cable networks;
the RealReal, an online luxury consignment store founded by Julie Wainwright,
World Wide Technology, one of the largest black-owned technology companies in the United States established by David Steward,
Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization focused on introducing girls of color to technology and computer science founded by Kimberly Bryant, and
Walker & Company Brands, a health and beauty company focused on products for people of color founded by Tristan Walker.
Black History Month is a crucial time to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. From Harriet Tubman's bravery and leadership as an abolitionist to the invaluable contributions of black-owned businesses to the community and society, there is much to celebrate and remember.
Let us use this time to educate ourselves, honor the past, and work towards a brighter future for all.