What does Black History Month Mean to Me? – A personal essay written by Henry Rolle

Growing up in The Bahamas, a country that was predominantly Black, there was not always much reason to celebrate Black History Month, because even if it wasn’t overtly or knowingly expressed we showed appreciation for our culture and each other.

It was not until I left The Bahamas and went to America, I realised the importance of Black History Month. I have always known about influential Black people in History, whether it be pertaining food, music, art, the civil rights movement or anything else. But this time, I was around those who were black but who were not in the majority population, the celebration of the Black culture was very different.

To African-Americans Black history month meant celebrating their societal and historical contributions as it was not always acknowledged or celebrated. Black History Month was created to shine a light on racial issues, specifically those that black individuals faced. So for the first time in my life I was celebrating Black History Month.

With this being said, I had to conclude within myself what Black History Month meant to me, not because I was forced to, but because I wanted to examine myself. Inclusive of all of the ethnic cultural interactions that I have had so far, I can say, without a doubt, that all black people are not the same, even if we do share things we have in common. People think that the lifestyle they see on television of poverty or wealth tell the true story of Black people in certain parts of the world. Individuals sometimes conclude that if you are black, you are African, or if you are from the Caribbean that you are from Jamaica. Although some of our belief systems are the same, they are different at the same time. But our diversity within our community as black people, although it makes us different also brings us together. From Africa to The Caribbean, America to England, and everywhere else the black experience is different.

Often with the simple questions, where do I fit in? How do I fit in?  Black History Month, for some is where they do find a place to fit. This is where the Black community comes together, where events and celebrations give individuals a place to belong. Feeling at home for the first time in a long time or feeling appreciated for our forefathers contributions from decades.

This is where the Black community comes together, where events and celebrations give individuals a place to belong.

Every year there is often a debate on why should Black History Month be celebrated or be a part of the yearly calendar. As if we as Blacks want to be separated or placed in a specific category, we all just desire to be treated the same, equally. Black History Month, for some makes up for everything else that is neglected all year round, whether it be racial injustices, historical contributions, or societal contributions. It allows for the expression of culture, through dance, music, food, and art without hesitation. It lectures in history without bias or negligence. It empowers young people who don’t know their history, and either urges them to appreciate it or learn more about it.

So what does Black History Month mean to me? The same thing being from The Bahamas means to me. The same thing that being from The Caribbean means to me. The same thing that being Black means to me.

It means everything, because I appreciate me and that was learnt through my cultural history. The same way, to someone who is Black British, African-American, African from any country within the continent, or Caribbean from any country, it means everything, because it gives us a place to fit, it gives us an Identity. Black History Month lets us celebrate just being Black.

 

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