Black History Month is Important, Relevant, and Necessary

Learning about other cultures helps us to understand how much we are really alike. We remove barriers and begin to authentically connect with one another.

By: Frederick Goodall, Assistant Director of Communications at BakerRipley.

I always have mixed feelings about Black History Month.

On one hand, I’m proud of my history and culture and I’m glad to see Black excellence prominently showcased throughout February.

On the other hand, I realize that everything, will return to “normal” as soon as March rolls around and that’s quite disappointing.

There are still nagging gripes about Black History Month such as, “Why do they have to have their own month?”, “I’m not Black. Why do I have to learn about Black History?” or “Why isn’t there a white history month?”

Hearing such statements is frustrating and hurtful. But this ignorance will persist until people truly understand that the contributions Black people have made to this country.

The origins of Black History Month

That’s why historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. This organization was dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.

In 1926, the group sponsored a national Negro History week, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures.

During the civil rights movement in the 60s, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Ford understood most Americans aren’t naturally inclined to celebrate other cultures. And in 2021, this fact remains. We are more divided than ever.

More divided than ever

Last year’s protests after George Floyd’s murder taught us that we have a long way to go towards reconciling our racial differences. I think Black History Month gives us a chance to have open dialogues about race and really get to know one another on a deeper level.

But doing this is scary.

It’s much safer to recite Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” or talk about the things George Washington Carver did with peanuts or casually mention that you voted for Barack Obama or place a black square on your Instagram profile.

Individuals must do a much better job of educating themselves about Black History.

Taking individual responsibility

Research narratives from slaves who actually experienced the horrific conditions. Read books by Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, bell hooks, W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Octavia Butler, and others.

Visit the Houston Museum of African American culture, the Black Cowboy Museum, and the Buffalo Soldier Museum. And when it’s safe to do so, travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Museum of American History and Culture.

Black people’s contributions to this country have made America prosperous, but that prosperity was acquired through blood, sweat, and tears.

However, I am proud of the strides we have made in this country and how much we’ve influenced the culture through music, food, fashion, sports, dance, literature, and politics. Black History is American History. The two are forever intertwined.

While everyone must take individual responsibility for educating themselves about Black history, companies, institutions, and governments must also play a role in amplifying Black voices.

This includes BakerRipley.

Amplifying Black voices at BakerRipley

While working at BakerRipley, I’ve had an opportunity to work on a couple of major projects that promoted Black culture.

The first was working with Dr. Marlon A. Smith to publish the book, “Black Lives Houston: Voices of Our Generations. This book honors the enduring spirit of Black communities and the great strides Black residents have made while recognizing the challenges Blacks in Houston continue to overcome. This book is a must-read for all BakerRipley employees.

The second was planning a hosting a Juneteenth Celebration at Texas Southern University. During this event, our Board Member Matt Barnes moderated a discussion on Black life in Houston.

We can still do more

We can still do more to celebrate Black History Month and black culture throughout the year, but I’m glad that BakerRipley has taken steps to acknowledge my culture and showcase people who are impacting this region in positive ways.

Learning about other cultures helps us to understand how much we are really alike. We remove barriers and begin to authentically connect with one another. And these connections are what make us truly human.

Happy Black History Month!