For me, Black history signifies the recognition and celebration of Black presence, creativity, and resilience across time and location. It also signifies a shared commitment to the moral, ethical, and structural work that makes democracy thinkable, concrete, and preservable. So, Black history is not about celebrating a single historical moment of Black creativity; or a single Black hero of inspiration, charisma, and vision; or a single Black manifestation of excellence, as if Black history is a celebration of exceptions to an otherwise normative story. In Black history, I feel the sweep of a long arc of herstories and histories of politics, art, spirituality, economics, culture, sports, and science all mobilized in work of a more just, equitable, livable, shareable, and sustainable world.
Black history is important for at least two reasons. First, Blackness is still threatened by certain national and global arrangements of political, economic, and epistemological logics and power. That is why the 2023 theme for Black History Month is “Black Resistance.” Black history helps to reduce the hyper surveillance of Black life. Second, Black history is a history of opportunity and hope – hope as an epistemology for (re)designing new systems and policies and practices that create value for all, not privilege, for a few.
Individually, we can use the month as a teaching/learning opportunity by expanding our reading lists on Black thinkers, leaders, and communities outside of our disciplinary areas, geographical locations, and national affiliations.