My first memories of Black History Month began the summer before I entered middle school. My parents sent me to a summer camp called “The Institute.” That summer I learned about the usual Black History icons including W.E.B DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. I read a dozen books in a summer that was capped off with a trip to Detroit to see Nelson Mandela. I was enlightened.
But when I entered college, years later, I realized that I had only scraped the surface of the numerous incredible accomplishments that black Americans have made. There was a vast diversity within the community that was never discussed. I discovered too many unsung heros to name. I read works from black LGBTQ authors like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde; I learned about Stonewall and the black trans Americans that fought for LGBTQ rights; I learned about nerdy black women that helped take the stigma out of being black geeks; I learned about black people that did “unconventional” black things like camp and hike outdoors.
This brings me to the question: Why don’t we celebrate diversity WITHIN the black community during Black History Month?
I am not talking about people cheering for us from the sidelines but, instead, us black people using Black History Month to celebrate our own diversity. Let’s start celebrating current black excellence within our communities such as:
Young black people that propelled the Black Lives Matter Movement
The young black millennials that are redefining the icons black children see when they are growing up.
All the courageous black LGBTQ+ leaders that are providing visibility and reassurance to black teens that might otherwise lose hope.
There are too many to name.
I will end with this: an accomplishment does not need to be 50 years old to be worthy of a Black History Month shout out. Maybe someone in your organization made history just a few years ago, or even yesterday. Let’s honor the works in progress and celebrate the wonderfully diverse accomplishments of the black community.