Let's Celebrate Black History Month And Understand Why It Is Important
Seems like 2018 is already flying by, we're already half way through February and stores have already starting putting us in the Easter spirit. Although it may seem like the days are speeding past us, there is a lot to look forward to this February (even for those of us not celebrating Valentines Day).
One of the standout events of February is Black History Month. During the whole of February, the achievements and contributions of black people throughout history and to this present day are celebrated.
Black History Month plays an important role in celebrating the historic leaders of the black community from civil rights leaders, to the brave athletes Tommie Smith John Carlos who raised a black power salute during the 1968 Olympic games that later lead to them being ostracised by US sporting establishments in the years to follow and lastly to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the three black female mathematicians that worked for NASA during the Space Race.
So many people, more people than can possible be named, have worked so hard to change the course of history (from all walks of life) to empower future generations to have hope and give them access to opportunities that simply did not exist for them before.
Although February is a time to celebrate black people and how far we have come, there is still a long way to go.
It is a politically turbulent time. The election of Trump, who has strong political views especially regarding race and gender, highlight that America still has some deep issues regarding race and equality.
It seems as though we’ve reverted from all the progress we’d made in society that lead to the election of Obama, our first ‘black’ president, to electing Trump, someone who stands against everything that Obama represents. It was like one step forward, two steps back. Although this may seem like the case, we cannot fail to acknowledge the hope that Obama represented for so many people. Obama being elected as president was like a victory for people of colour, a ‘we made it moment’ to anyone who ever thought that we couldn’t amount to much or be as successful as our peers, Obama and his family showed that we could.
With Black Panther coming out next week, there is no better time to celebrate all that black people have achieved through history and importantly recognise the issues that still exist in society and work to overcome them. Whether this through education, raising awareness or taking action we must all aim to move in a more positive direction.
For people who aren’t Marvel fans or simply haven’t heard about Black Panther, many are probably curious as to why the movie is so important, after all isn’t it just another superhero movie?
But it’s so much more than that. This is the first time on the big screen that black people have been represented in such a big way and not just boxed into the stereotypes that we are normally put in as gang members, or musicians, or ‘ghetto’.
Instead we are represented as kings and queens in our African homeland. We are presented as strong, powerful, beautiful leaders working together to overcome a fight. For a race that has been enslaved and continually discriminated against based on the colour of our skin, this is a big deal.
African culture is no longer seen as inferior to western societies but instead showcased as a majestic land that has so much potential. Of course there is still work to be done regarding development and the current political issues that a lot of African countries, we are not hiding away from the truth of the matter, but it is refreshing to see a film that shows the beauty of the continent and the cultures within it (thank you Marvel for taking this gigantic step when no-one else was).
With all this being said, I hope that for every Black History Month we have something new celebrate, some way in which we have made a difference and gained that one step closer to equality. When reading or watching the news it is easy for the negatives to cloud what is good is happening in the world and to focus on what has been achieved but we must remember that every voice is important and when you are knocked down the only thing to do is come back harder and stronger.