I’m sure most of you know that February is Black History Month. I’m also sure that you’re not immune to the stories about race relations in our country and the fact that some people (I won’t name names here) say that we shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month at all. And, if you’ve seen my picture, you know I’m not black.
But, I have an opinion!
I DO think we should celebrate Black History Month and here’s why. This country was founded by mostly white people. We celebrate that all through the year with holidays like President’s Day (okay, technically it DOES celebrate black presidents now too…), Independence Day (commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 – signed by white men), Thanksgiving (don’t get me started) and Columbus Day. Please keep in mind that these are federal holidays – not local, national or state holidays (of which there are too many to name here.) I’ve named only federal holidays because people tend to think of those when discussing why we shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month.
So that’s our first issue. BHM is an observance, not an official “holiday.” It is OBSERVED by some and not a federal holiday (a holiday recognized by the government). There is also an Employee Appreciation Day in May that is an observance… I’m sure not everyone observes that “holiday.” Look up the amount of “holidays” observed in the US alone. We, as a FREE country, can observe a whole slew of things (some weirder than others).
In addition, even if BHM WAS deemed a national or federal holiday I wouldn’t mind. In this country we have only ONE federal holiday dedicated to a black person (Martin Luther Kin, Jr. Day). Do you know the amount of black people that have shaped this country? And we honor only ONE of them?
Let me give you some examples:
Vivien Thomas – African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s.
Dr. Georgia Rooks Dwelle opened the Dwelle Infirmary, which was the first general hospital for African-Americans, the first “lying-in” obstetrical hospital for African-American women.
Garrett Morgan, Sr. – Inventor most famous for inventing the traffic light, but also created safety hoods for firefighters.
Daniel Hale Williams was an American general surgeon who, in 1893, performed the second documented successful pericardium surgery to repair a wound. He also founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States. (And born right here in PA!)
Patricia Bath – The first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose – the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts, and “for ablating and removing cataract lenses”.
George Washington Carver – Perhaps the most famous of black inventors. Born into slavery, Mr. Carver reputedly developed 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. His goal was to aid poor farmers in growing alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.
This is just a SMALL (VERY SMALL) sampling of the hundreds of black inventors, scientists, authors, artists and activists that have called this country home … but many of us have rarely heard about. This is why I believe it is important to celebrate Black History Month because people of every color have shaped and molded this country and we need to recognize and embrace that. During this month, I encourage you to seek out what other black people have made a difference. Maybe it’s just been in your community or your state, maybe just someone who has made a difference in your life. Celebrate them, cherish them, and spread the love and the education to others.