Black History Month is an important time for African Americans. It is an important time for all Americans. It’s a time to reflect, remember, and rejoice about the incredible contributions that African Americans have made to American society and history. But Black history month is also an important time for members of the African diaspora, like myself.
Black people were not born in the U.S. but now call this country home. When I became a legal resident at 9 years old, I don’t remember knowing much or learning much about Black American history. Even later in high school, I knew more about Jamaican historical figures than African American ones.
It was only later in college where I learned that Black History is a rich history. I learned that people who are significant parts of Black History include influences from the Caribbean and around the world, not just African Americans. The Caribbean was a stopping point for many slaves before they made it to U.S. shores. People from the Caribbean, like Marcus Garvey, also play a huge role in Black American History. The reason Black History is so important is it is a rich history.
The importance of this rich diversity is not lost to me. As someone who leads the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts of the Grand Rapids Chamber, it’s something I am continually aware of. The richness and diversity of Black History reminds me that the African American community also has a rich diversity to it. The African American community is not monolithic; it’s diverse and so is its contribution to American history. It’s important in recognizing Black History month that we also acknowledge this rich history.
This February, I invite you to engage in Black History Month with a slightly different lens. Join me as I continue to acknowledge the well-known and often-cited examples of Black American History. I challenge you to explore some of the less traveled historical pathways and people. Together, let’s widen our view and knowledge by going beyond and exploring the lesser known and uncited contributors to Black History. In the process, we can learn how to engage with differences from a more inclusive perspective. This is a skill that will serve you and I well in creating great inclusion.
Reach out for ideas or let me know how it goes at firstname.lastname@example.org!