By Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy & Programs at Florida Rising – Black History Month is a time for commemorating the achievements and of, recognizing the history of, and recognizing the disparities still facing the African American community. As a Black woman raising a Black son and daughter, I usually look forward to this month as a time for reflection and recognition of America’s progress. But, this year, it is different. In 2021, we must reflect on Black history through the lens of deeply disturbing and heavy-hearted events.
Black History Month is more important to the future of a just and equitable democracy than ever. At a critical time, it gives the country a glimpse into its own soul—if we are only brave enough to look at it. What we see is not only the past but a way to better understand the societal, political, and socioeconomic ills that threaten us today.
When analyzing the COVID-19 pandemic and the most divisive presidential election in American history, the racial differences are horribly obvious and are rooted in situations that can best be explained, examined, and interrogated through the lens of Black history.
The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the national Black Lives Matter uprisings proved to be the most potentially transformative social justice movement in history. It helped to eliminate the perennial notion that Black history and the Black struggle ended in the 1880s, and shatter the disconnect between present-day racial injustices and the historical roots of our ancestors. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds joined to participate in demonstrations that one usually reads about or watches in movies. That is the spirit we must carry with us and uplift this month.
The realities of being Black is an experience most won’t understand and sadly, most don’t want to understand it. But, this month and every month moving forward, we must remember that our existence is not determined by how others see us… but how we take up space and reclaim our power in the face of adversity.
There is perhaps no better time to acknowledge that Black history is more than just a narrative of the passage of time from slavery to freedom. Black history is a living and breathing struggle we face every day to fight for dignity, a fair and equitable democracy, and a land where Black people can thrive.
The future of our democracy requires all of us to rise up and step into this history. We must step into our power and embrace every facet of our existence–the rough and smooth edges of our history, the joy and pain, and trauma of our shared lived experiences, to ensure that we are able to go down the road toward racial truth, justice, and healing.
Black history month in 2021 is knowing that we have the intestinal fortitude to withstand tragedy and still fight, knowing that our light will not be dimmed by the darkness we face, and having the courage to raise our voices for those who no longer can. While it is necessary to have a month where we can put down our weapons and celebrate, we must remember that while African-Americans have come a long way—the journey is far from over.