As we rolled past Groundhog’s Day and into the month of February it is hard NOT to be aware that February is not just about sweethearts and presidents – but also about black history. Most Americans, regardless of pigmentation, have opinions on Black History Month.
Some people, with ancestry similar to my own, believe BHM is a bunch of political correctness, piled high. Ask them, they’ll tell you, “We’re all Americans, stuff like this only makes us more divided.” They might even go on to tell you that if they proposed having a “white history month” they’d be accused of being racist. I just try to remind them, for the most part the other 11 months really ARE “white history months”…..
I also meet some African-Americans who are convinced, “Sure, “Black History Month”! We get the shortest month of the year – just one more piece of evidence that white folks won’t give us anything equal.”
Truth is, Black History month began in 1927 as “Negro History Week”. Dr. Carter G Woodson chose the second week of February because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the African- American population, Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
The birthday of Lincoln was also cause for the writing for the great anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” also know as the Black National Anthem. Writen in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson (who has living descendants here in Minneapolis) it was performed first as a poem as part of a celebration on February 12, 1900 by 500 schoolchildren.
But the importance of Black History goes far beyond a few interesting facts. If we really are the UNITED states of America – your history IS my history. I mean, if black students need to know about George Washington – why shouldn’t white folks need to know about people like Ottobah Cugoano?
As a Christian I take this even further. If God is the god of all – then we can see his hand at work in all of history. If Jesus really died to make us ONE body , we are bound together and share a past that God has worked through – and a future he is leading us into. To me a key for real unity isn’t in avoiding or shaming the celebration of various slices of history; but in learning to see God’s fingerprints and servants in the histories of us all.
Unity can take root and grow if each of us can come to terms (with the good and bad) of our own history while also embracing the value of knowing the rich stories and history of others.
Accept MY STORY
know YOUR STORY
reduce the MYSTERY
because OUR STORY
is HIS STORY.
In the next few weeks I plan to post stories of persons of various cultural and racial backgrounds who have much to teach us about God and his call for us to live as his community.