My earliest memories of lifting up the Black American experience during the month of February was that we celebrated “Negro History Week.” In later years, we celebrated Black History Month, which was an acknowledgement that the triumphs and trials of African Americans could not be contained in a week of highlights.
We heard the stories of inventors and civil rights leaders. Special attention was paid to George Washington Carver, Booker T Washington, Mary McCleod Bethune, and occasionally something about Marcus Garvey if our teachers were feeling a bit radical. We learned about the Little Rock 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. We read the poems of Phyllis Wheatley, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and later Maya Angelou.
In my days as a pastor, I would wear a Kente cloth stole in the month of February, the choir would lead us in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and there would be readings of poetry and prose celebrating the Black experience in the nation and in the world.
We know that no people’s history can be taught and appreciated in a single month, and that no one groups’ history in the United States of America can be separated from the whole history of the country. Still, in these days I do not ask why we have Black History Month, any more than I ask why Women’s History Month, or Hispanic History Month, or any other time to recognize the contributions many groups and individuals have offered to make us who we are.
We have seen in the last years with the unjust and cruel deaths by law enforcement of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and most recently Tyre Nichols, that there is much to lament and protest. Protest is a sign of hope, that by bringing attention to painful things, they can be made better.
Hope is realized in the countless leaders in the church and in the leadership of government at every level who do their best to represent us all.
Let’s continue to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, bind up the broken places wherever we are able, and celebrate all that African Americans have done to bring hope and healing to the church and the world.
Rev. Dr. LaTaunya Bynum, CST/DSF graduate, DSF Chair of Board, Regional Minister of CCNC-N
Note from Editor: In honor of Black History Month, DSF has invited board members, students, and graduates to share their reflections on this annual celebration. Each of them has been asked to answer the following three questions:
1. What does Black History Month mean to you?
2. How do you/your church celebrate Black History Month?
3. How would you like our Church to honor Black History Month?
We invite you to take a little bit of time out of your day to join us in reflection.