“February is Black History Month, a time dedicated to celebrating and amplifying the essential contributions of Black people in the story of America, which so often get overlooked and under-recognized. National and local events and online celebrations will take place throughout the month to focus attention on Black people’s achievements and history.”
I love celebrating my heritage, but alas, I have a confession to make. Black History Month can be exhausting! Between the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King holiday and February 28th, everyone is trying to get a piece of the celebration. There is a plethora of wonderful (often free) events, and all the Black movies are on TV or cable. Then there are the clearly opportunistic efforts to associate with BHM for profit, often with no substance and every intention to easily profit. Sprite and Target, come to mind. Sprite is marketing its product with the logo in black letters to show support of BHM, yet I can see no record of any substantive support of the Black community since 2020 when the brand donated $500 thousand to Black Lives Matter Global Network and rap musicians. Remember George Floyd? Many companies developed statements of support and made donations in that year.
But every year, I fall into the trap of working myself into a frenzy trying to take part in as much as possible. I pay homage to Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Week in 1926. I try to attend as many of the wonderful events honoring Black History as I can. I join book discussions. I try to watch the best movies, some of which will be harder to find March 1st. I’m often involved in planning an event. And I try to make a post every day on Facebook about #BlackHistory, #BlackExcellence, #BlackJoy or #BlackGirlMagic. You get the idea! Week 2 and I’m already exhausted. And I expect the same cycle to be repeated now that Juneteenth is a national holiday.
All this, although every year I post that Black History can’t be limited to one month – the shortest month – of the year. I recall a close friend, who became energized after George Floyd’s murder. She was reading all the books on Black History and watching all the movies at an alarming pace. I knew she’d burn out quickly before accomplishing much of anything. It is difficult to absorb and acknowledge much of the pain of our country’s history and one’s complicity with it all. As Ibram X. Kendi says in How to Be an Antiracist, there is no “not racist.” There’s racist and antiracist. And we all slide in and out of those roles. Of course, some of us are more likely to be unjustly targeted by racist attitudes and policies.
As my gift to you, I am sharing this article that shares the history of BHM and many ways to engage Black History and culture. Don’t try to do it all in a month. Delve in, study and reflect throughout the year. Live into the Matthew 25 commitment to dismantle systemic racism. Commit to being a co-conspirator and prophetic witness for racial justice.
And, finally, don’t expect your Black friends, church members and co-workers to educate you when you decide you’re interested. Do the work! Sign up for the Presbytery’s Dismantling Racism Training on March 21st. Find out about the other exciting work we have planned for 2023. Engage with some of the suggestions in the article. Consider whether your congregation should commit to the Matthew 25 initiative. Because confession #2, just living in a Black body in America can be exhausting too — joyful but exhausting!
Happy Black History Month!
Charese Jordan Moore
Dismantling Racism Team, Co-Chair