One year ago, I began my first Black History Month Celebration with the goal of bringing to light Black historical figures and triumphs of the past, attempting to cover the spectrum of Black achievements: from the arts and sciences, politics, commerce, inventions, and other contributions to the life of our nation and of our world.
This year, I am approaching Black History from a different vantage point: I want to look not just at past achievements, but current ones as well. History is not a study of the “dead” past; history is the continuum of our experience—it provides a fulcrum from which we give meaning to our past, our present, and our future.
So, while you will see stories of past heroes and achievements, I hope to bring some of these stories current in ways that connect them to the present—for instance, sharing stories from the perspective of their descendants—so that we can view them in a more personal way.
I also want to focus on heroes of today—people who have built on the struggles and triumphs of our past to deal with the issues of today which, not surprisingly, echo the past and provide an impetus for shaping the world of tomorrow. In particular, I want to examine the works of several younger Black writers (including Ta-Nehisi Coates and Joy-Ann Reid) who are already making their mark on the world, and to give voice to other writers who may not have as broad an audience but are nevertheless addressing the same kinds of topics and interests as their more “successful” colleagues.
Last year, 2015, was a monumental year in Black History—from the seemingly unprecedented killings of Black men, women, and children across the country by police officers, which actually harken back to lynching, beating, and other forms of terror that have shadowed the African Diaspora for centuries, to the extraordinary act of “rebellion” in Charleston, South Carolina last year—the taking down of the Confederate flag after the horrific murders of the Mother Emanuel Nine last summer, inciting fierce debates all over America, not just about the terrorist act of murder that provoked the “rebellion,” but about the very meaning and relevance of all Civil War relics in today’s society.
This is what I mean when I call history “the intersection of the past, present, and future.” And it is why I have chosen, for most of this year’s Black History Month posts, the “feature photo”/banner at the top of this article.
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