SUBMITTED BY PHILIP MIHESO
When I was in high school, my history teacher asked me to create a presentation for Black History Month. Frankly, I never comprehended why she wanted me to do so… what did that have to do with Kenya? But I did, and in many ways, I learned. I learned the story of the icon Rosa Parks. I sat bewildered by the story of Sojourner Truth. I equipped myself with knowledge of Martin Luther King and Brother Malcolm’s upheaval. I went ahead and got inspired by the Black Panther movement. I learned about the great creations that were done by people who came from the famously acclaimed motherland. Did you know that peanut butter was created by someone of African American descent? I’ll be blunt, I was and am brimming with pride!
Thereafter, for a while, I punished my medulla with thought. Why did they fight so hard? Why were they creating riptides about things that unfortunately led to their demise? I inquired as to why they threw away everything they’ve ever known and loved for people they never knew. As the English majors would say, I arrived at an epiphany.
We devote a month to clearing up misunderstandings, educating others on misconceptions, and deconstructing stereotypes. But, doing this requires us to be open minded and encompassing. The richness of North America’s diversity is what makes it mighty. Black History Month enables everyone interested in this country’s origins and culture to better appreciate it by understanding the rich history, strength, and genius of those that make up this continent.
Some people think that Black History Month, along with other months that celebrate diversity — such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — isn’t necessary. Allow me to make a slight admission: I believed it too. It’s believed that these months serve no purpose but to divide an already polarized nation.
That is false. African-Americans have toiled through decades of injustice and discrimination. They’ve battled to make every citizen equal before the eyes of the law. To evince that all people are created equal. Such exertions are the essence of the American history and who the North American people are. It is not only a month that allows one to observe the beauty of development, but also allows the people existing in this society to gain inspiration from capeless heroes and heroines.
Many a time, the issue of racial profiling and scandals related to race are often topics spoken of with undertones, under one’s breath, barely in a space allowing for open discussions. People are afraid. Afraid to speak on matters that invoke great emotion. Matters that can easily be used to transform the way one is viewed in society. The real concern is, why are we afraid to have these conversations that would open our souls up to a new dimension of feeling? Of empathy? Of relation? Of familyhood?
Remember when I said I had an epiphany? Well here it is:
These heroes fought for all of us. For people of black, white, Asian, Latino descent so that we can exist in societal harmony. So that we all can co-exist and be comfortable and be safe with each other, just as normal beings would. Legends such as Martin Luther King, and Muhammad Ali inspired not only African Americans to stand against oppression, but also inspired people like Nelson Mandela.
All it takes for us to share in that conducive environment battled for us, is an open receptive mind. In truth, I have attempted to create in you a mind that is more hell-bent on listening, and critiquing the ideas and experiences displayed rather than the persons telling them. What you’re about to read will rock you to the core. It will create all sensations of malaise. It will make you feel insecure, you will want to leave, and that’s okay, but I would like you to know, that sometimes difficult truths must be spoken. On campus various occurrences, that I assure you the up to the 90th percentile of students are unaware of, have taken place. Many unspoken because of the fright of persecution, misjudgement and hate. But, like Malcolm X said, we need more light about each other. More light creates more understanding. More understanding creates love, love creates patience and patience creates unity.
In the words of the urban poet Jermaine Cole, “What good is taking over when we know what you goin’ do? The only real revolution happens right inside of you.”