“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
– James BaldwinI had never had reason to fear the police. Not until this summer, when I watched as a gas canister was dropped into my crowd, directly onto the collection of high school leaders that had gathered our community together. I had been aware that unprompted violence was a pressing issue and yet the reality I had known was a fraction of the even meager understanding I now had. More than anything though, I am struck by what an immense privilege it is for me to merely experience the topics of this conversation second hand. I certainly felt strange about being tasked with writing on Black History month as a white woman. Some ways into my research, however, I had to reassure myself (I can only hope rightfully so) that while I am far, far, far from the best voice to be speaking on the topic, this is a topic that requires constant conversation and that not writing at all and missing out on the opportunity to start important conversations would be a far worse option than the reality of delivering my inadequate view on the matter. Please, do not let my voice be the only one you hear this month. There is a plethora of Black leaders and creatives that can be found with a simple search online who will do any of these topics a much greater justice than I ever could.
As always, we here at PATH challenge you to discuss difficult topics amongst other adults and with your family. While discomfort exists around topics like stereotyping, racial violence, oppression, slavery, the school to prison pipeline, and systemic racism, this discomfort cannot be an excuse to avoid the topic. If in the very least, we must do so because there are so many who have no choice but to face these realities everyday regardless of the discomfort or violence that come with them. We have a responsibility, as family members, as community members, as humans, to work towards a better society. The sentiment shared in the above quote from poet, author, and leader James Baldwin points out: this progress cannot happen until we are willing as a community and as individuals to face that which needs to be changed. However, Black History Month is about more than injustices (although these are of course important topics to head this month and year round). It is also important to share and celebrate stories of Black success and joy, such as that of Lonnie Johnson, the NASA engineer who brought us the Super Soaker. If you’re catching up on some reading this month, add some Black authors and poets to your list such as Lucille Clifton, Octavia Butler, and Jason Reynolds. For film, I cannot recommend Loving any more highly, and the animated short Hair Love always does the trick when in need of a feel-good smile.
Every year, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) selects a theme for Black History Month. In 2021, we take this month to focus on “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity”. There could possibly be no better way to celebrate Black History Month this year than to take time with your family to learn and grow together in respect to this topic. As a starting point, check out this link for a list of free programming from PBS airing throughout this month or click here for more information on how you can sign up for the ASAALH’s Black History Month Festival. There is no American history without Balck history, no American culture without Black culture, and no American family without the Black family. I hope you all take this opportunity to celebrate with reverence just how important Black History is to each and every member of society and how much thanks we have to give to the millions of Black leaders who have made us all who we are today.