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What Does Black History Month Mean To You?

By Coco

black history month

What does Black History Month mean to you?  What does it mean to be black in 2017?  These are two questions I’ve been asking friends and colleagues lately.  Being that February is Black History Month I thought sharing some of those thoughts here would be a great way to further the discussion.

When it comes to Black History Month, I’m of two camps; Black History should be an intrinsic part of our collective history, especially because in Canada we not only learn so much about American History in school, but also because our country is so tied historically to our neighbours to the south.  Thus, a month is not enough.  On the other hand, as we’ve seen as late, things have yet to really change, so without taking a month to force people/schools/media to focus on Black History, the fear that it would never be highlighted is real.

*Edit* A reluctant reader reminded me that I omitted answering the second question.  Please see my answer below:

What does it mean to be black in 2017 to me?  It means a serious sense of duty to seek out and share stories, like these ones, that create conversation around black culture and identity.  Ones that don’t only highlight stories of the few famous people who have risen to the very top, but also of ones that highlight the plethora of stories that are often forgotten or never get the chance to see the light of day.  It means standing up against not only institutional racism but also micro aggressions so often overlooked or ignored in order to not alarm or to keep the status quo.

Below find the responses of some of my favourite influencers, media personalities and friends.  Please share your thoughts too!  It’s important, now more than ever, to have open conversations about topics that concern us all, even if they’re tricky.

Black History Month

Kevin Claiborne

@kevinclaiborne

What does being black in 2017 mean to you?
Being Black in 2017 to me means being prepared to take a more active role in the journey for justice for all people. I believe our nation is becoming more aware of the double consciousness & lived experiences of African Americans as well as the after effects of systemic racism and our job now is to continue to work towards true equality and equity. Being Black in 2017 means not getting comfortable from our perceived progress and it means holding a sense of responsibility to ensure future generations are not starting from scratch whether economically or socially.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month means celebrating and articulating a sense of pride in what it means to be a Black individual. It is a time of reflection and appreciation, not just for a list of “firsts” but for all that we have achieved, the barriers we broke, and all that we still have to accomplish. Black History a Month is all about coming together and appreciating the diversity of talents and intellect amongst our culture and making sure we continue to lead, make positive change, and have a lasting impact.

tracy moore

Tracy Moore

@thetracymoore

What does being black in 2017 mean to you?
It’s a contradictory mix of pride, rage, heartbreaking reality and disappointment. Anyone who has watched their people go through human rights violations knows these feelings. There is an unstated kinship underlying every Black death by cop, every misogynist portrayal of a Black woman, every line of legislation that aims to hold us down. Obama gave me hope. I fear we’re paying for our boldness (the audacity!) of throwing our support behind a Black man, with an administration intent on convincing us it was all a dream. This sounds so bleak but honestly I still have hope. I’m chuffed at the amount of outrage south of the border. But I’m also scared right now. This world is showing me what it’s capable of in truly upsetting ways.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
When I was a news reporter I used to call it Black Reporter Month because it was the only time I was called by organizations to host events. Times have changed…and they haven’t. As the saying goes, it’s the coldest and shortest month of the year – gee thanks. And how much history can we possibly cram into 28 days? On the other hand what would happen if we didn’t have a concerted focus once a year on issues effecting the Black diaspora? We need Black History Month until there’s a day when our issues are woven into the daily fabric of society. I hope I’m still alive when that day comes around.

black history month

Shawn (P-Plus) Pinnock

@djpplus

What does it mean to you to be black in 2017: 

I think it means, what its always meant. “To always keep in mind that I must work twice as hard if not harder than to get to where I want to be. I must never use racial disparity as a crutch, because through hard work and determination I can conquer all”

What does Black History Month mean to you?

It means that we need more of our history and less of “His Story” for one month. So many stories untold, so many untruths never resolved. We need more than one month to celeb our lineage.

I am also not liking the fact that Donald A__Hole Trump changed it to “African American Month” what this does is further divide us not by the color of our skin, but more by the richness of our culture… But that’s a totally different convo for another day (MAD FACE EMJOI)

 

black history month

Sasha Exeter

@sashaexeter

What does it mean to you to be black in 2017? 
2017 is a very interesting yet confusing time. We are at the apex of our time discussing issues of race and equality while also feeling empowered after watching Obama conclude serving two terms as Leader of the Free World. However, all that being said, I still feel somewhat helpless, like most African-American and African-Caribbeans feel. With all the progress and evolution, I get confused as to why we’re still so stagnant. Why there is still so much police violence against black men, no matter how loud our #BlackLivesMatter screams are. How Donald Trump being elected as the next President of the United States has set us back 100 years. I find some solace in the what we have achieved as a race and so proud to be a woman of colour but I am still reminded daily of how far we will have to go.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Growing up in my household and attending Howard University, the Mecca of HBCU’s (Historically Black College and Universities) Black History was taught 12 months out of the year. However, February is an extra special time to reflect on those lesser known stories and people who sacrficied themselves in civil rights, politics, education, sport and film to pave a way for a better tomorrow. For generations our race has been opressed and we have been programmed to feel inferior or less than deserving. Although the shortest month of the year, February is a time for me to to find strength in our ancestors and be proud of who I am. To be encouraged to make a difference and leave behind a legacy to make the world a better place for those after me.

Robert Okine

1. What does it mean to you to be black in 2017? 

Being black in 2017 is a very interesting time. There are moments where we are at the top of the food chain and being celebrated, but then there are others where we are public enemy #1 and can’t explain why. I think most black people find themselves frustrated, scared, and angry more than they are hopeful, comfortable, and respected. It’s the police getting off after exercising unnecessary force, resulting in the unwarranted death of a visible minority, that is probably a black person. But then, we have to look at places like Chicago and the number of deaths because of gang rivalries. It’s the way mainstream media depicts a Black Lives Matter gathering as a public gathering of a terrorist group. It’s Obama’s term coming to an end. With them in office (I’m including Michelle), we had hope as adults, children, and citizens of the world. We witnessed the forever changing dynamic of a growing family and the power of “Black Love” when facing trials, publicly. And to not go on too much of a rant, but I’ll also say it’s the reality that Trump is now in office and as a result employment, lawfulness, health care, foreign affairs and education are all at risk.

2. What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is my New Year. My reset. I remember everyone who came before me. Everyone who struggled and sacrificed so that I didn’t have to go without. Everyone who contributed to today’s standard of living with an invention, words of inspiration, acts of civil rights activism and anything else. I do that and I out my realities trials and frustrations back into perspective.

Thank you to everyone who contributed and shared your thoughts.  Stay tuned for the second part in this series coming up soon.
xx,
Coco
top photo by Shani Crowe

7 comments

Leave a Reply

  1. Kate says on

    Interesting that you didn’t answer the question yourself. Aren’t you black?

    1. Hi Kate,

      I actually did respond to the question, if you read the post, it’s in the first section, second paragraph. And yes, I am half black.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Peace be with you,

      Coco

  2. sarah says on

    Thank you for posting this.

    1. Thank you for reading!

  3. Kate says on

    You answered what Black history month means to you, but not what it means to be black in 2017, hence my comment. I’m sure the question can still be answered by someone who is “half black” lol.

    1. Hey Kate,

      You’re right. My mistake, I didn’t answer that question. I’ve gone back and added it.

      I’m sorry you’re a reluctant reader but I would love to hear your opinion on the two questions too! If you’d like to share I would love to read it.

      With peace and love,

      Coco