Celebrate Black people, Black history, Black achievement, Black culture, Black theology, and Black progress.
Every year during Black History Month I challenge myself and those closest to me to go deeper in understanding Black achievement and to affirm the God given dignity of Black people. Generally, we as Black people are faced with racial difficulty, and by necessity are fighting for our place in the world. Dr. King said, “freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” This demand for justice and liberation often precludes us and those around us from celebrating, honor, and reflecting on our progress. THIS. MUST. CHANGE.
If you really stop to think about it, the story of Black people as a whole is quite remarkable. It is a story of God’s grace, faithfulness, and commitment to uphold the imago dei on the faces of Black people. A people that was stolen from their native country and subjected to great evil for 400 years. Yet, we found the fight to demand our full liberation and to make meaningful contributions in the world around us. This is nothing short of remarkable.
Why Celebrate Black History?
Because representation matters. Black history is American history, Black history is Church history, and Black history is our history. While we designate February to celebrate Black achievement, it must be said that the reason for this has a racist root. Due to the racial history in the West, Black history has never been shared in its fullness. It still isn’t.
We must make this right. We must lead the change we want to see in the world.
Black history is a tale of a resilient people, fighting for progress, endowed with God given strength and genius. We must celebrate Black history because without it, our story is incomplete.
How Do I Celebrate Black History Month?
I’m so glad you asked. Here are 7 ways you can celebrate Black History Month:
- Don’t relegate Black history to a single month – Many fall prey to this error. At Church, Black theologians will be quoted, Civil Rights leaders will be honored, we might even make a social post. Then March rolls around and it’s back to business as usual. This shouldn’t be. Black history is our history. The Civil Rights Movement is Church history, the abolishment of the slave trade is our story, and the people that lead these movements are giants in the Christian faith that we should honor and draw upon regularly. Black successes and triumphs make us better. They make us complete. Don’t make the mistake of relegating Black history to Black history month, the shortest month of the year, I might add.
- Move Beyond Quotes – Don’t just bite the quote, consume their work. In Black History Month, we’ll see and hear quotes from people like MLK, Fredrick Douglas, or Rosa Parks. That’s fine and good, but these leaders are more than just their quotes. They were intellectuals, with genius that is still relevant for today. Don’t just cherry pick the quotes, actually get invested in their story. We must honor those giants that persevered that all might be esteemed and dignified. We ought to know about the faith of Fannie Lou Hamer, the strength of Shirley Chisolm, and the tenacity of Bryan Stevenson. Don’t just quote us, get to know us.
- Celebrate the Black People in Your Life – As a Black man doing good work, while living in America, it can be challenging. I am a living testament that the struggle is real. Encourage your Black friends, family members, and each other. We need each other. This isn’t just a quotable, its biblical, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24)
- Support Black Businesses and Organizations – This is a simple one, yet often overlooked. Make the conscious effort to stand with those that are doing good work from the Black community. It’s easy to frequent your big box retailers and your mainstream organizations, but there are countless Black owned businesses and Black lead organizations that would benefit from your support. With a little planning and research, we could all play a part in Black achievement.
- Understand the Plight of Black People – Racism is real. Anti-Blackness is real. It is going to take all of us to overcome the evils that we face as the Black community. Be informed and become an advocate for real change.
- Do Your Own Work – Your black friends and family might be a wealth of knowledge on Black history and even willing to support you on your journey. However, It must be said: Don’t depend on Black people for your education during Black History Month. Dig in, dig deep, and do your own work. Recommended resources are furthcoming to support you on your journey.
- Learn from Black People – Black people are currently pioneering in so many spaces. We should familiarize ourselves with their work. We should follow people like Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the scientist that led the research and creation of the Covid19 vaccine; Rosalind Brewer, the newly appointed CEO of Walgreens; Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks; Bethany Wilkinson, founder of the Diversity Gap Academy; or the work of my friend Dr. Kendra Momon, writer, pastor, and provost at Oglethorpe University.
Black history is our history. As believers, we ought to be the first to stir one another up for love and good works. We ought to be those that live out the values of the Kingdom, seeking to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We must model the change that we want to see in the world.
I love this statement by President Barack Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” If we are to get to a place in which all are dignified and esteemed, we must lead the way. Celebrate Black History Month by celebrating Black achievement and the Black people around you.