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Unapologetically Black: Understanding Black History Month

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Mansa Musa, ancient emperor of the West Mali Empire

Mansa Musa, ancient emperor of the West Mali Empire

Mansa Musa, ancient emperor of the West Mali Empire

Sophia Howard

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I am unapologetically black– a race worthy of celebration, praise, hope, and love. For me, black history is whittled with pain and pride, with anguish and resilience, but above all else with hope. Black history month is a period of celebration– not of mourning– to share our complex and vastly different stories, histories, and cultures.

Why do we need black history month, people ask? Because for the shortest month of the year people should empathize with the black experience in America, an experience like no other. Black history month is not a period for mourning or pity. It is not white guilt month.

If you choose to make celebrating a group of people that is constantly marginalized and persecuted into a negative because of your own narrow-minded ignorance you are doing exactly what the month was invented to combat. If you choose to defiantly stand by, you are a part of the problem. Black History Month is a period of celebration and reflection and a time when people can be unapologetically angry not just for black people, but for all people! Because if you’re not angry, then I promise you aren’t paying attention.

Not every black person has the same history. Americans group all black people together, stamping African American on us all and then insisting that we share the same heritage and lineage. This is not the truth. An important piece of Black History Month is also understanding that Black History did not start with slavery and it is different for every person. It reminds African Americans that their history and their contribution to this country matters.

While I celebrate black history every day, it can get tiresome if you’re the only one participating. Black history is not just my history, but it’s yours: Black history is America’s history. I am no more African than my neighbor nor my peer. My fate was bound over a 400 years ago when my ancestors were kidnapped from the shores of Africa and brought to the south. Just like all the other beautiful immigrants and refugees that make up our country, I am American. I always have been and I always will be.

I was fortunate enough to be born an African American woman. While many people think these two identifiers make me easily marginalized and overlooked, I must disagree. People forget that black women are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Their history deserves to be shared. Not because they are better than anyone else, but because society has allowed these stories to remain a mystery when these stories are in fact the skeleton of our nation.

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