Black History Month doesn’t memorialize race. It honors the impossible that transpired despite it.
As Black History Month commemorates, there’s a debate on whether this holiday is celebratory or segregationist.
On the latter, Chicago rapper Kanye West declared the holiday should be replaced with “Black Future Month” to celebrate “#BlackExcellence.” And rapper T-Pain, in a short interview with a TMZ reporter, shared similar sentiments expressing, we should “Stop celebrating [the holiday]” because “we want to be part of history, don’t celebrate one month for us.”
And beyond these artists, the question “Why Should We Celebrate Black History Month?” seems less rhetorical as our cultural conversations become more divided in America. And I believe it starts with our opposing opinions with the term “Black.”
So, let’s go back to the 1950s; from a pulpit in a modest church. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made an enthusiastic address to Black Americans.
Martin explained, “If the [Black American] is to be free, [you] must move down into the inner resources of [your] own soul and sign with a pen and ink,” expounding that “no document can do this for us.” Here, King illustrates personal freedom from racial identity. Before I elaborate on that point, let me share his concluding statement. “Be proud of our heritage,” he said, “I’m Black, and I’m proud of it. I’m Black and beautiful!” King didn’t double-speak here. He is very clear. Lay down your racial identity, be proud of your ethnicity.
There’s a difference between these identities. As someone can be “White” and “Scottish” or “White” and “Swedish,” or “Black” and “Nigerian,” the same goes for “Black” and “Black American.” Our race is what marked us without our consent. After African people were stolen from their original homes and enslaved as property for America. They were not a homologous group. They were manufactured together with no legal identity and orphaned from their ethnicities.
But legally succeeding the Emancipation Proclamation — -a new people cultivated a new heritage despite the nation’s original plans for them. From property to citizens. A Triumph Song!
Black History Month doesn’t memorialize race. It honors the impossible that transpired despite it. And this unfathomable victory, which fought for our alienable rights, is why T-Pain and Kanye West can freely express their opinions, is why this future exists in the first place.
But as I stated in my essay, “I make a case for Black freedom of thought — an unconditional stance no matter if the next idea challenges mine.” The mere fact that any Black American can say anything we want, is Black History.
Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that?