Op-Ed: The Key to Celebrating Black History Month
I remember I used to half-heartedly attend Black History Month assemblies in middle school and high school. I’d think, Here we go again. Oh well, at least I can get out of this crappy class I hate.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the assemblies. It’s just that after a couple of years, attending the assembly because we were required to got old. I wanted to celebrate black history because I connected to it, yet I couldn’t connect to it because of the way it was taught in class. My schools were focused more on standardized test-prep than learning enjoyment, so I felt like a robot when it came to learning black history (and almost everything else).
Until I started taking college courses, I couldn’t figure out which black history person or time period I really liked. My interest was first piqued when I took English 1102 and read the poem “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. It blew my mind, seeing a female black poet write about young people like that. Afterwards, I ended up reading more of her work and then found my way to Langston Hughes, where I discovered more amazing work. Both Langton Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks eventually inspired me to write my own social-issue poems about youth. Furthermore, they led me to other black writers and a tradition of reading at least one black author’s work during black history month.
Another connection to black history came when I looked up the history of music for a psychology survey paper on music. I discovered the blues roots of rock music and came to enjoy a song or two from people like BB King, Ray Charles, and Chuck Berry. Since rock is one of my personal favorite music genres, I couldn’t help but take pride and appreciate these talented musicians for their contributions. Besides rock, I also discovered a few jazz and funk musicians I appreciated too. Cab Calloway and James Brown became a few favorites.
In the end, I think it is your personal interests that make up the ability to truly celebrate and appreciate black history. You need to know what piques your curiosity and then explore it. You can’t just celebrate black history month because you’re black or you’re required to in school. Find your personal connection to black history, so you can celebrate a part of yourself.