The history of our world is a story of migration, diversity, empire and belonging. But these topics are not often taught in schools or even talked about in public discourse. Black History Month is about teaching ourselves fully and fairly about our history, and not just looking at it from one point of view. Black History Month challenges racism and promotes understanding by making sure that the achievements and stories of people of African and Caribbean descent are not ignored.
History of Black History Month
Black History Month in its current form is relatively new but the idea of a day for celebrating Black History has been present for a long time. It formally started in the USA with the work of Carter G Woodson, a brilliant historian and one of the first Black persons to get a doctorate from Harvard University. Seeing the widespread discrimination and lack of inclusion, Woodson started 'Negro History Week' because he believed that teaching black history was essential to instill pride and confidence and to ensure the long term success of the community.
The first Black History Month came into being at Kent State University in February 1970 and was organised by Black educators and Black United Students.
Although having origins in the USA, the concept of Black History Month was quickly adopted by countries around the world including the UK, Ireland, France and Germany.
The Black History Month that is now widely celebrated around the world every October, originated in the UK in 1987. It was organised by Akyaaba Addai Sebo after a colleague told him that her son had asked her, 'Mum, why can't I be white?'. So moved by the words of the little boy, he organised an event at the heart of London to promote self-pride in people of African and Caribbean descent through teaching of their histories and culture.
The relevance of Black History Month in contemporary society has often been disputed but in reality it remains as important as ever before, as shown by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and countless other tragic instances of racial injustice.
Black History Month & Mindfulness
One may wonder why Medito is talking about this topic. How is Black History Month connected with mindfulness or meditation? Let's delve into this:
Black History documents numerous instances of sacrifice, struggle, discrimination and inhuman treatments which can invoke complex emotions. Mindfulness and meditation offers the tools to navigate those emotions and to channel them to enable positive action and individuals as well as collective healing.
Black History Month teaches us the importance of unity, not by disregarding our differences, but by celebrating them. Mindfulness or meditation can help us in fostering unity through breaking barriers and building bridges. A United world where people are mindful of others and diversity is celebrated would be an homage to the creators of the Black History Month around the world.
The Medito App contains the Empowerment pack that can be of immense help in Black History Month for combating racism, enabling empowerment or avoiding activism burnout.
What can you do in Black History Month?
Support Black Owned Businesses
Numerous Black Owned Businesses still to this day face systemic and structural racism, which puts them at a disadvantage from the get go. According to a survey by CNN, 40% of Black Businesses closed in a span of 3 months which is twice the failure rate seen in white businesses in the same time span.
Thus becoming regular customers of Black Owned Businesses is a great way to support them and also advance the cause of Diversity and Inclusion. If you don't have a Black Owned Business nearby, shopping on online marketplaces like Miiriya can be a good idea, they are like Amazon but they showcase products from Black Owned Businesses.
Read Black Literature and Learn about Black Figures
Add Black authors to the reading list, "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker, "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler are some of my personal favorites.
Given that notable figures from the Black communities are not discussed extensively in our schools, this can be the perfect opportunity to learn about some of them, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. These figures are a constant source of motivation.
Donate and Volunteer at Anti-racism charities
Given racism is still a reality, there are a number of charities that fight against systemic racism, police brutality and discrimination, but they need donors and volunteers to continue their work to seek equality and inclusion for the Black Community. Consider donating or volunteering at grassroots charities to advance the cause.
As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the National Museum of African American History and Culture: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".
So the month-long celebration of Black History is an effort to educate ourselves about the rich history of Black people and to also instill a sense of pride and admiration.