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Black History Month: How and Why We Celebrate it Today

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Photo by Steve Snodgrass (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Flipping the calendar to February gives everyone plenty of reason to celebrate.  From the anticipation of Valentine’s Day chocolate to the promised three day weekend for Presidents’ Day, it seems as though there is cause to celebrate something everyday.

And there is.  Black History Month is observed in February, with 28 days dedicated to appreciating and commemorating black culture and achievements.  It originated in 1926 as a week-long celebration of the accomplishments of African Americans in the United States.

Several celebrities and businesses honor black culture with various programs and activities.  For example, department store Macy’s has organized events throughout the month of February, packed with celebrity appearances and discussions.

Macy’s country-wide events will feature actor Jay Ellis and the co-host of the popular podcast “The Read,” Crissie West, amongst other stars.  Showing support for the company’s decision to promote and honor black history, rapper and artist Saul Williams, who is also working as the national ambassador for these programs, said:

“As a performer who uses words to bring attention to social justice causes, I feel it is paramount to stimulate engagement and awareness through our words and our art.”

Nike is scheduled to release a Black History Month edition of some of their most popular shoes, including the LeBron 14 and KD 9.   According to the shoe vendor Kicks on Fire:

“The limited edition 2017 Nike BHM collection incorporates a decorative marbling — blending black and white — in reference to the strength of harmonious movement. Each design in the collection is also punctuated by gold accents, reminders of the power of coming together and the aspiration of unity.”

The purpose of these celebrations is to further recognize the important contributions of African Americans in our world and use it to empower others.  Recognizing this, the Nike Black History Month shoe collection, available on February 16, will benefit the Even Higher Fund.  This organization focuses on bringing the advantages of sports to children in underprivileged communities.

AMC theaters and 21st Century Fox are also offering free screenings of the new film Hidden Figures to celebrate Black History Month.  The movie tells the inspiring tale of the three African-American women who worked behind the scenes on a NASA launch.  The Senior Vice President of Social Impact at 21st Century Fox Liba Rubinstein said:

“As we celebrate Black History Month and look ahead to Women’s History Month in March, this story of empowerment and perseverance is more relevant than ever.”

Aside from corporations getting involved, there are also multiple ways and reasons that anyone should celebrate Black History Month.  Cal Poly journalism professor and member of Race Matters SLO County Julie Lynem emphasizes the importance of remembering and learning from the past.

Lynem also brings up a relevant quote by Frederick Douglass, an African-American abolitionist who also escaped slavery in 1838.  Douglass stated:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Lynem stresses the importance of this quote today, a call to action that signals the necessity of continuing to honor black history and culture beyond its allotted month.

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