Don’t delegate black accomplishments to one month

Kalyn Johnson

Black history month is not a month that should pass without recognition. It is a month where we recognize the ones who came before us, overcame adversities in the face of imprisonment, beatings and murders.

This month we look back on the past, but also forward to the future of what it meant to be a person of African ancestry in the U.S.

Currently, Black Lives Matter is the movement that speaks the loudest on behalf of the black community. Not only did the movement start out of injustice of the murder of an unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, but has continued to gain momentum though the injustices members of the black community face on what seems to be a daily basis, in a society meant to help us all.

The movement focuses on very specific issues faced in the black community such as senseless killings, the lack of quality education in inner-city communities, commitment to fostering connections within the LGBTQIA communities, fighting against ageism and encouraging diversity of all forms, race, gender, sexuality and otherwise.

An entire month to recognize black achievement and black excellence. Without many black innovators the U.S., as we know it today, would not exist.

For example, we keep our homes safe with an idea for a home security system that was patented in 1969 by Marie Van Brittan Brown. But if security systems mean nothing to you, think about your health. Need blood? Does the hospital happen to be short of O-positive or O-negative blood types? Charles Richard Drew is credited for creating the idea of blood banks. During World War II, Drew was able to discover a way to preserve plasma for later use.

However, for some reason, we talk about the invention of the cotton gin to make slave workers lives easier, but we don’t talk about how the inventor got the idea from an African slave. It’s important to give credit where credit is due, not just when it’s a benefit to ourselves.

It has been less than 200 years since slavery was abolished in the U.S., following the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, and some Americans are already of the mind set that Black History Month isn’t needed. That it somehow isn’t important that black people have their own month to recognize their accomplishments. Yet the other 11 months out of the year are essentially white history months.

Consider when black or African-American accomplishments are brought up in casual conversation or taught in the classroom. It doesn’t happen unless we’re in an African-American based classes such as African American Experience or African-American Literature. We must recognize there is a need to pay attention to those who have been disenfranchised for hundreds of years, and pay attention to the things they’ve accomplished in the time they’ve been freed.

For me, the month is needed to recognize how America would not be America without black ancestors. It’s about recognizing where the U.S. came from inside and outside of the framework of a slave narrative.