Embrace Black History Month challenges
Black History Month by its very name encourages Americans to devote time to looking back on past struggles and triumphs of Black Americans.
It’s an extremely important, complex topic involving hundreds of years of history, and people would do well to explore it more than just four weeks each year.
There are those who question why this observance is needed every year. Some contend that it is wrong to single out one group for this kind of attention. But for far too long Black Americans have been singled out for mistreatment. And even after decades of efforts to increase understanding between the races, there’s still plenty of work to do. We’ve learned that all too well amid the strife of the last few years. Even deciding the best approach for teaching Black history is now fodder for political hostility.
Rather than despair over the difficulties so many of us have connecting with one another on these issues, we must continue to work at it. The better people of all races understand the Black experience, both past and present, the closer we may come toward achieving greater harmony.
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 the stories of people who fought against that mistreatment.
We encourage readers to learn more about the local impact of Black history. It’s understandable that there’s a tendency to focus on events in the South when people look at Black American history. After all, slavery, the Civil War, the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement all were centered in that region.
But there’s much more to it than that. The history of blacks in the North demands attention as well. Pennsylvania is an excellent place to start.
Black history is knitted into the fabric of our communities in many ways. Our state has its own history with slavery in its early years that too often is overlooked. Later our region was home to stops on the famed Underground Railroad for escaped slaves. Black Pennsylvanians were strong activists in the effort to attain equal rights for people of all colors and creeds after the Civil War. And Southeastern Pennsylvania has produced many accomplished Black individuals in a wide variety of fields including science, the law, academia, politics, arts and athletics, just to name a few.
We urge readers to check with local colleges, museums, libraries, historic sites and history organizations for resources on local history. Watch for events related to Black History Month as well. There should be some good opportunities for in-person activities this year as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic no longer are in effect.
Public gatherings are a hallmark of this annual observance, bringing people of all races and ethnicities together. They offer 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.
Remember that Black History Month is not just an opportunity for people to feel good about seeking racial harmony. Its observance presents us with significant challenges. During this time we are called upon to reflect on the difficult experiences of our past, face up to the many difficulties facing members of the Black community today and contemplate solutions to make things better in the future.
That last point is particularly important. Inspiring people to help create better times ahead is as important an aspect of Black History Month as reminding people about the tragedies and triumphs of the past and present. Let us work in a strong, cooperative spirit to make that happen.