Black History Month always gives me mixed emotions. First, it breaks my heart that my history has been stripped, belittled, and demonized so much in the country that I was born in that a month had to be set aside to share insight regarding it. I am glad Black History Month exists, but I should have learned about Garrett A. Morgan, the inventor of the traffic light when I learned about Alexander Graham Bell. I use traffic lights as much as I use the telephone. My American school system taught me more about a man that was born in Edinburgh, Scotland than it did about the man that was born in America. Black history is American history. It is because of the ingenuity of black people this country thrives today.
Black History Month originated in the United States of America, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It started out as “Negro History Week” in 1926, by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It took place the second week of February to coincide with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and the birthday of Frederick Douglass on February 20. This made it easier for society to accept the dual history of America. It encouraged the coordinated teaching of the history of black Americans in the nation's public schools.
This was a great start because the future of anyone in existence is built upon the foundation of their past. I am glad President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial in 1976. He urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
With this great accomplishment, more Americans should have learned about Charles R. Drew whose discovery of the effective long-term preservation of blood plasma saved countless lives during World War II. I did not learn about this black history fact from school. I learned about him from his daughter, Charlene Drew Jarvis. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College, a Master of Science degree in psychology from Howard University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuropsychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. Knowing people like Charlene Drew Jarvis gives me a sense of pride and appreciation that Black History Month exists. My heart transitions from its bleak outlook to a position of dignity and honor. I no longer feel plagued by the turmoils of slavery. I am reminded of the power that resides in my black soul.
This is a picture of a wall in my room. Looking at the wooden handprint blocks along with some of the plaques I have received is a constant reminder of the past generations of my family upon whose shoulders I stand. I have an Electrical Engineering degree because I learned from them how to persevere through challenges. I am a Certified Organizational Assessment Coach because they taught me to share what I know to uplift and enhance those around me. I developed strategies and actionable steps to navigate the hurdles of life because the black history embedded in my soul did the same in a country that is still learning to honor them.
Black History Month always gives me mixed emotions, but as my country learns more about the powerful contributions of African Americans, I delight myself in the knowledge that perhaps one day a firmer foundation is made.