The Phoenix

Black History Month more vital than ever

We’re in the middle of Black History Month, and for a second consecutiv­e year the observance is being affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


A spike in coronaviru­s infections this winter dashed hopes for more of the activities typically associated with the month. Once again many of them are taking place online via digital platforms

It’s most unfortunat­e, as one of the hallmarks of Black History Month is a series of events that bring people of all races and ethnicitie­s together. It’s an opportunit­y to celebrate the accomplish­ments of Black Americans and commit to continuing efforts to fight the racism that lingers in this country despite all the advancemen­ts we’ve achieved over the past 60 years or so.

We look forward to the day, hopefully very soon, when we’re able to get together in person for this and so many other cherished events throughout the calendar.

But there is a positive aspect to the focus on virtual events. Activities online can be enjoyed without having to leave home. Programs that might be too far away or pose other hurdles for someone to attend in person become easily accessible for anyone with an internet connection. As with so many other endeavors impacted by the pandemic, it’s easy to imagine expanding opportunit­ies to participat­e by offering a virtual option for events even when in-person attendance becomes common again.

Black History Month continues to have even more significan­ce than usual due to the ongoing debate over how people interpret the role of race in contempora­ry American life. It remains clear that our nation still has a lot of work to do in terms of racial healing, and this observance can help.

It’s imperative that this month’s activities remind Americans of the hardships Black Americans endured during the era of slavery and far beyond. It also represents an opportunit­y to emphasize stories of people who fought against that mistreatme­nt. A good way to do that is to visit local museums and historic sites in our own region.

Remember that Black history isn’t just about what happened in the American South.

Yes, slavery, the Civil War, the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement were centered in that region, but the history of Black life in the North demands attention as well. The Black communitie­s in our region have a rich heritage and powerful stories of their own.

That includes involvemen­t in the Undergroun­d Railroad for runaway slaves and activism in the effort to attain equal rights for people of all colors and creeds after the Civil War. The Reading Branch of the NAACP offers a list of area Undergroun­d Railroad sites at www.readingnaa­­d. The Chester County History Center’s library and galleries help tell the story of African Americans who helped shape our region. These are just a few of the resources available right in our region. Many colleges, libraries and churches also offer informatio­n and programmin­g for Black History Month.

We must note a locally produced event that celebrates the Black history being made in our own time. On Tuesdays in February Reading Mayor Eddie Moran is hosting a Zoom series on great Black inventors and how their work impacts today’s world. There are plans to hold an event at Albright College where the inventors will discuss how they developed and implemente­d their ideas. Registrati­on is required to join these sessions at readingpa.zoom. us/webinar/register/WN_Fb8JNEVtS_uYFDa6GNDb­zQ

“Each one of these successful innovators and creators has a story that I firmly believe will impact and inspire several lives from our community, particular­ly our youth,” Moran said in his announceme­nt of the program.

Indeed, inspiring people to help create a better future is as important an aspect of Black History Month as reminding people about the tragedies and triumphs of the past and present.

We urge readers to keep these resources and the topic in general in mind not just during these four weeks but throughout the year.

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