Mr. Charles Howard was a teacher at my high school, and in 1994, he started the first African American History class in our school district, probably in the state. I didn't understand what a big deal this was at the time. What I did know is I wanted to take the class. I can only imagine how difficult it was to get approval to pilot the course considering all the banning on the same courses in Florida.
The most memorable part of the class was when Mr. Howard dressed as a black panther and protested quietly during an entire period. I watched student after student try to break his silence, which he never did. He stood there, still, not smiling and resolute. It made me think that he had to have experienced this several times during his life, perfecting the ability to stare in the face of adversity and continue to push forward to do the right thing. I often think of his ability to stay calm before facing adversity with our DEI clients.
African American history is vitally important to understanding the African American experience. It is essential to have an understanding of the rich and vibrant culture of African Americans so that we can appreciate and learn from the struggles Black and African Americans have faced. African Americans have been oppressed, discriminated against, enslaved, and devalued throughout US history.
By learning the history and their experiences, we can be better informed on creating a more equitable and inclusive society.
The fight for civil rights was part of a more significant movement for social and economic progress in the United States. By understanding African Americans' contributions and challenges during this time, we can better recognize and appreciate the progress made in society. In addition, studying African American history can help us understand how and why racism and oppression still exist today. We must become more aware of the structural and institutional racism that still permeates our country and use this knowledge to develop solutions that can lead to real change and progress.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month (or African-American History Month, as it is referred to in the US) is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of African-Americans to our history, culture, and society. The month originated in 1926 when American historian Carter G. Woodson initiated his annual week celebration. The week was centered around the second week of February, which is the same period as it is still celebrated today. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially declared the month of February "Black History Month," noting that "in celebrating Black History Month, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Since then, the month has become an essential part of the American calendar.
Why is Black History Month the Shortest Month?
The fact that Black History Month is the shortest month is by no means a coincidence. February is the shortest month of the year in the United States, typically lasting just 28 days. This is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the short duration of the month serves as a reminder of how much work still needs to be done in the fight for racial justice. It is also a sobering reminder that, despite the progress made in celebrating Black history, there is still a long way to go.
The shortened month also highlights that much Black history remains largely unknown or ignored. Despite the efforts of scholars such as Woodson and subsequent civil rights leaders, Black history has gone unacknowledged in the mainstream for much of its existence. The "holiday" is too short to explore the contributions made by African-Americans to our history entirely, and this fact emphasizes how much work still needs to be done.
The fact that Black History Month is the shortest month says a lot about how much progress still needs to be made regarding mainstream attitudes toward Black history and race. This ranges from the continued invisibility of Black history in school textbooks to the general lack of representation in the media and other sectors. Another issue is the idea of "racial fatigue." This term is used to describe the idea that, due to the disproportionate amount of coverage given to issues related to racial injustice, many people who consider themselves "allies" have become "tired" of hearing about the issue. This has the effect of minimizing the importance of Black history and downplaying the urgent need for justice and progress.
The first step in changing this situation is to recognize the importance of Black History Month and the need to seek out knowledge and information about African-Americans' vast and complex history. We all must actively seek information and engage in meaningful conversations about our past and present history. Another way to address this issue is to support initiatives and organizations that work to make Black history more visible in our society.
This includes supporting institutions such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture, providing financial support to independent organizations such as 100 Black Men of America, and promoting and attending events such as the Smithsonian African American Film Festival.
Black History Month is an important time of year to remember the contributions and achievements of African-Americans. Despite its short duration, the month reminds us of how far we have come and how much work still needs to be done regarding racial justice. It is up to all of us to ensure that Black history is no longer a footnote in the story of America but rather a story of progress, resilience, and hope.
My African American history class had a significant impact on my life. Mr. Howard was the teacher who made this possible. His class had a profound effect on my life. It was the first time I had been exposed to African American history, and it made me realize the importance of learning about and understanding the experiences of people of color.
He opened my eye to the inequities that were systematically built and taught me the importance of diversity and the impact that it can have on society.
After taking this class, I had a new fire in my belly and knew I would spend my life doing some activism. I remember feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment as I learned the correct history of the united states. I also felt a sense of feeling robbed of truly being educated on our history. It was then and there that a sense of responsibility built in me to learn as much as possible to share what I had learned with others.
One of the most important lessons I learned from this class was the importance of understanding different people's different perspectives.
Mr. Howard taught me that it is essential to recognize and respect the different perspectives that each person brings when discussing an issue or situation. He showed me the importance of listening to others and not making assumptions.
Mr. Howard also taught me the importance of celebrating and honoring the accomplishments and contributions of people of color. He emphasized the importance of recognizing the courage and bravery of African Americans who fought to make this country a better place for everyone.
Now as DEI practitioners, we help organizations create inclusive environments where all employees can thrive. We work with organizations to help Black and African Americans identify and address unconscious bias and discrimination issues. We help Black and Africans Americans develop policies and programs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through our work, we strive to create a workplace where everyone is respected and valued, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
I recently learned that Mr. Howard passed away in 2020; I hope he knows how many lives he changed during his career. Thank you, Mr. Howard, for being a truth-teller
As we celebrate Black History Month, Pearl Hernandez Consulting will highlight black and African American unsung heroes, inventors, and thought leaders on our instagram.
*Photo credit: COMMUNITY ACADEMY OF PHILADELPHIA