February is upon us once again and with it comes that time first proposed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson when our country recognizes the significant deeds of African Americans — countering a long-held and hallowed history that only told a portion of the real, complete story of these United States and how it developed.
As a child, I loved the tales I would hear from my parents and teachers about Shaka Zulu, Harriet Tubman, Haile Selassie, Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley. I eagerly awaited my Mom taking me to Vaughn’s Bookstore — a staple for the Black community in my hometown of Detroit. There I’d salivate over an expansive collection of books, puzzles, maps and so many other “treats” that helped me learn more about Black folk, believe in myself and my God-given abilities and to begin to understand the beauty of my skin and the value of my ancestry.
But since I joined the ranks of the Black Press more than two decades ago, with each passing year, I’ve gradually developed what one might describe as a “love-hate” relationship in regard to my true feelings about Black History Month. However, before you dismiss my thoughts as absurd, let me elaborate.
You see, I have good reason as to why I sway from one extreme to the other — sometimes experiencing a keen sense of euphoria — then falling headfirst into a seemingly, bottomless pit replete with a never-ending list of things to do and a prayer that the 28 days will pass swiftly.
Yes, love-hate. Those who, like me, claim membership within America’s Black Press, whether they’re the editor as I am, or if they are part of a team, like the incredible folks with whom I work, know that we will never be able to report it all, show up for every program to which we’ve been invited or photograph each noteworthy occurrence and tribute — all aimed at honoring the infinitesimal amount of contributions and sacrifices made by “the family” — those who make up the African Diaspora — both from the past and in the present.
We have been called by many names here in the U.S., some of which caused great humiliation and pain. But despite the odds, African Americans have weathered the storm, “made a way out of no way” and, as my mother often advises, “tied a knot and hung on.”
When I’m at my wits end, or feeling like I can’t write one more word, read one more article for editing or laboriously scan pages of books to check facts or to gather needed references and information, I think about those who paved the way for me. I think about my grandmother who only had a sixth-grade education before she was forced to abandon school and scrub stairs on the streets of Baltimore. I remember my grandfather, half-Black, half-Native American, who was ostracized by his own tribe and so-called “full-blooded” Blacks alike because he spoke and looked different from them. I look back with pride at my parents — the first in each of their families to complete both college, Tuskegee and Hampton, and to receive master’s degrees. I look back over the academic opportunities and career choices that I’ve had — pathways that just one generation before had not existed — at least not for anyone who looked like me.
I’m Black and I’m proud. So what if I’m a little tired. Spring will be here soon.