COLUMN: Black history is yearlong tribute

Angela Oliver

There’s always something enlivening in me each February. Perhaps it’s because the month sends me constant reminders of the great accomplishments of my ancestors. Or maybe it’s because I’m reminded of the great struggle, as well.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy Black History Month was established by Carter G. Woodson and that it has endured for 85 years as a celebration for us all.

On his 1993 empowerment hit, “Keep Ya Head Up,” Tupac said, “Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice … the darker the flesh, the deeper the roots.”

February makes me proud to explore those roots and open my mind to their vast history. Of course, we should all be open to educating ourselves about many cultures every day of the year. But having a month to highlight a race that has contributed so much to the growth and innovation of our country is special. And I will forever be proud.

There are many who disagree with celebrating Black History Month, saying it polarizes people, promotes racism and diminishes the reverence of those it is meant to honor since it’s restricted to a month.

But we must remember that it began as Negro History Week in 1826, because Woodson felt academic curriculum lacked inclusion of black history. Sadly, that can still be said today.

But thinking the celebration has to end when February is over is as ridiculous as thinking the fight for cancer stops when Breast Cancer Awareness Month ends in October. The calendar may change, but the awareness and learning should not.

So I encourage you all to embrace this month and absorb as much as you can. I also challenge you to seek knowledge beyond what you were taught in high school.

No disrespect to Dr. King, Brother Malcolm or Rosa Parks; they were exceptional people. But there are hundreds of thousands of forgotten heroes and names written with the blood, sweat and tears that nurtured the lands of this country as we know it. We cannot forget to acknowledge them, too.

We cannot forget to tribute those who made our daily tasks and leisures more convenient. People like Alexander Miles, who patented electric elevators with automatic doors in 1887; Otis Boykin, who invented electric control devices for the pacemaker; and George T. Sampson, who invented a clothes dryer in 1892, have influenced our lives more than we recognize.

So we must salute them proudly, no matter our race, and accept that African-American history is American history.

Read a little about black history each day this month, and when the 28th day comes around, you will be surprised by what you’ve learned.

If you look closely enough, you may also be surprised to see that your roots run just as deeply, and even intertwine far beyond what the month of February can contain, enlivening you, too.