Blacks should be grateful for Black History Month, during which the peculiar and powerful histories of people of African descent are brought to the world's attention. It is a time to reflect on the lives and legacies of Black freedom fighters that fought and won battles of every kind in every age for the noble purpose of empowering their people socially, economically, politically and culturally.
It also serves to remind us that Black histories are not just about the oppression and repression of people of color; they also tell of Blacks who have made invaluable contributions to nations, communities and institutions throughout the world.
However, let us also be mindful that we have a very practical and personal need for Black history every month. As we conduct our daily affairs and strive to make a future for ourselves, we also need to look to the luminous past for guiding lights.
While we should not live in the past or attempt a wholesale reconstruction of it, we still need to pore over Black historical records to gain insights and inspiration that will help us "keep keepin' on" as we pour ourselves into liberating and uplifting works of service.
Intimate knowledge of Black histories can also keep us from taking for granted where we are as Blacks and what it took to get to these sundry places and spaces in life.
Those who do not learn fromthepastuntil February will repeat it far too often. They are also not likely to make the most of the opportunities that have been opened to them by the sweat, blood and tears of all the agitators, abolitionists, martyrs, marchers, rebels and revolutionaries who came before them. A visceralunderstandingof Black histories can move and motivate us to make the most of each moment of our lives.
Another benefit of delving deeply into Black histories is that doing so can help us truly appreciate the rich diversity that does and has always existed among Black people. Despite how some people try to monopolize and minimize what it means to be Black, there are perhaps as many ways to be Black as there are Blacks in the world.
At our best, we have always embraced and encouraged this diversity because no people can ever be free indeed if their minds and spirits are held in bondage. Diversity is desirable also because it allows us to marry ingenuity to insurgency and thus confront destructive folk and forces as creative and constructive activists.
Given the good that can come from diligent study of Black histories, it is needed first and foremost in Black families. The dissemination of such knowledge should not be left only to educational institutions and community organizations, especially so-called multiculturalists who are content to teach a token Black history.
Personal and collective histories of noted Blacks need to be taught and talked about in Black homes as liberally and passionately as they are discussed in Black studies departments at colleges and universities. In doing so, we will truly help more of our people come to the realization that the study of Black histories is not just an elective or special event, but it is something that is essential to the enrichment of all Black people.
Black History Month is a sentimental walk down memory lane for some people and a patronizing one for others. Moreover, it is the only time a lot of people learn about the extraordinary lives, achievements andcontributionsof Blacks, while others spend the month trying to set the record straight for what they think is a captive audience.
But perhaps we should think of Black History Month simply as a reminder, not just to celebrate Blacks who made history, but also to stitch their illustrative histories into the fabric of our own lives and decision-making. Let us not memorialize, but internalize the importance and implications of historic Black individuals, initiatives and innovations.
Let us learn from the past so that we can truly live in the present.
Richard Jones is a writer living in Detroit, Mich. Leave your comments on his blog at http://blog.iamrj.com.