Our View: Black History Month a time for reflection

Published 7:52 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

More than 100 years ago, historian Carter G. Woodsen and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The organization was dedicated to promoting the achievements of black Americans and people of African descent.

In 1926, the group sponsored “National Negro History Week” during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Out of the event grew a nationwide movement to organize celebrations of African-American history. Starting with annual proclamations from mayors across the country, Negro History Week eventually grew into Black History Month. President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, with a call to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Still, each February is a time to reflect on the accomplishments, influences and contributions of African-Americans on our culture, economy and many other aspects of our society.

However, as noted by Joyce Morton, chairperson of the Winchester Black History and Heritage Commission, Black History is not just about honoring these contributions, it is about educating younger generations about the many ways African-Americans helped mold and shape our country and our community.

“If we don’t tell them, they don’t know,” Morton said.

Black History Month is a time to reflect on the sacrifices made and the journey taken to arrive at our current state.

Many school-aged children will not remember a time when the thought of black president seemed to be more of a dream, but for the past eight years it was a reality.

Despite the many accomplishments and great contributions made by so many, Black History Month is also a stark reminder of where race relations stand in our country today.

We must acknowledge that, although much has been done, we still have far to go.

While Black History Month is certainly a time to celebrate, it is imperative, especially in our current climate of race relations, to have the kinds of difficult discussions that can unite communities and lead to change.

A recent report from The Greater Clark Foundation revealed something many of us already know, but may have opted to ignore: segregation, racism and divides because of race still exist in our community.

As we take the next four weeks to honor the African-American men and women who made significant contributions to our society, we must also make an effort to step out of our comfort zones.

Attend a Black History Month event, do a little research, ask a neighbor how you can help break down these barriers in our community. Sometimes asking is the hardest part.

This month, let’s not just celebrate history, but look to the future.