February should not be the only month limited to cultural education and history

The celebration of Black History Month is a time of the year where we learn and are reminded of the great accomplishments and hardships that historical and present day African American citizens have had to experience during their fight for equal rights. It is an important tradition, designed to include the African American narrative within our history and celebrate their contributions to our society, but is it achieving the true understanding and appreciation that it deserves?

In my own personal experience growing up attending Catholic school, kindergarten through eighth grade, Black History Month was not something my school put too much focus on. Although it was a very diverse school and many of my friends were of all different types of races, Black History Month was simply reading off a list of African American inventors or having a production crew put on a play about African American history.

I remember, even as a young girl, being excited about history in general, but I especially enjoyed learning about African American history.  I relied heavily on networks like PBS and the History channel during Black History Month, to learn more about black history. It was because of these programs that l could gain more understanding and supplement the lack of resources I had from my own school.

It wasn’t until my introduction to public school, which was my freshman year in high school, that I could truly engage in discussions about African American history. This prepared me for the mind-blowing experience of attending my first college history course, which had an emphasis on the African American experience.

Black History Month celebrates its forty-first anniversary this month, but its origins can be traced back to 1926. It began first as an idea for the second week of February to be declared as National Negro History week.

Harvard University Ph.D. and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Carter G. Woodson, began the fight in the 1920s for black history to be included in the study of American history.

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” he said in a famous quote.

Woodson’s dedication to preserving black history stemmed from the overwhelming need to be inclusive in American history. His vision would later, in 1976, became the Black History Month we all celebrate today.

The true knowledge gained from history is the ability to analyze and understand the societal views during a period of time. The fact of the matter is that, although ugly, discrimination is a part of our nation’s history. Some argue that it is time to just “get over it,” something I strongly disagree with because you run the risk of forgetting your past and reliving it over again.

In order to progress, we need to teach our youth how to actively engage in dialogue about those issues and apply that understanding to their everyday lives. This is how we give them opportunities to have a more accepting and inclusive mentality.

I believe that Black History Month is very important and there should be more care in the way we educate young students. Our nation’s history is rich with many life learning lessons, and it is not until we include all narratives that we can gain a true understanding of how far we have come.

Although I feel Black History Month is important and we should continue this tradition, I believe now is the time to encourage the education of black history outside of February. We should not wait until February to appreciate all the contributions that African Americans have made for our country.