What Does Black History Mean To You?
What does Black History mean to you?
These two words, while seemingly simple when written, carry centuries of traditions, remembrances, and memories, each unique from one individual to another. How can one person attempt to answer such a frankly loaded question?
Well, simply put: they can’t. Cultures do not and should not have monoliths.
However, what cultures & social structures do have are their people. From the outspoken to the silent listeners, the known to the unknown, each culture consists of a rich history of storytellers who convey what their culture means to them, both in the present day and in a historical sense.
The following submitters were all given the prompt, “What does Black History mean to you?” From there, each participant explored what they themselves deemed worthy of exploring, compiling into just a sample of what Black History means to the Manchester community.
Master’s Candidate, Women’s & Gender Studies
Southern Connecticut State University
Black History Month means honoring our ancestors and those of us alive today. Growing up, the only people I really heard about during this month were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, etc. While everyone should know who they are, these people are just some of those who have been tokenized repeatedly as the standard, superficial Black history lesson. This holiday is about diving deeper into our history, culture, and honoring the Black community today who is pushing past so many barriers- within our personal lives and out in this world.
Black people are and have always been strong for so many reasons. There has always been so much thrown at us as soon as we open our eyes every day, yet we have always found ways to survive, find joy, laugh, and love. We extend that love to those who might not like us and have even done so in the midst of slavery and segregation. We overcome mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and so many more systemic tribulations. Black History Month is not just a classroom lesson, advertisement, or social media post, but a reflection and celebration of our powerful existence in this world.
Senior Recreation Supervisor
Department of Leisure, Family & Recreation
It’s funny, because when [I received the prompt], I felt as if I needed to respond or give you a thought. It’s just now I understand and realize “What black history means to you” isn’t a chore or a responsibility, but a feeling. I am grateful to be black, to show my son it’s OK to be a different color. Many have paved the way and continue to do so, so we can feel good about ourselves and feel equal.
Black History is me, you, all!
Author, Historical Moments: Military Contributions of African Americans
I have often wondered why in reading the military history of our country the role of the African American has either been overlooked or very little mentioned on the part they have played in defending the country. Maybe the study of Black History will help Americans of all races know that Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first man killed at the Boston Massacre. Army Lt. John R. Fox was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Italian campaign in World War II for an unselfish act of courage and sacrifice, and General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the first Black General in the Air Force and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. Black History has taught us about the Buffalo Soldiers, the 761st Tank Battalion, and the Harlem Hell Fighters.
Now it’s true racial harmony has yet to be achieved in our country[;]however, Black History has shown the African American to be more than ⅗ of a man and a second-class citizen. Black History is now showing the heroic deeds and accomplishments of those black veterans of the past, and it gives me a special sense of pride in being a black veteran.
Community Research, Planning & Development
Co-Founder, Connecticut Artist Initiative
What does Black History mean to me?
To me, Black History means World History, as are the collective, interactive, and inter-related histories of all peoples of our world, as in the truths, and history of humanity.
Department of Leisure, Family & Recreation
In the song Keep Ya Head Up, prophetic lyrical rapper, Tupac Shakur blessed us with the lyric “Some say, the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice…the darker the flesh, the deeper the roots”, to inspire individuals in our black community to love ourselves intentionally in all ways. If I had to describe Black history in two words, I would choose the term “collateral beauty”. The circumstance in which my ancestors were brought here was an ugly one through blood, sweat, tears, chains, overcrowded ships of African bodies being forced to come to a country that wasn’t their home. From that God built beautiful generations of Black people who scream “SAY IT LOUD, I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD” (thank you, James Brown).
My culture cannot be replicated or duplicated; we are one of a kind. The honorable poet Maya Angelou once wrote in her famous poem “Still I Rise”, “With your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust, I’ll rise.” Through society’s standard, black skin & black hair weren’t deemed beautiful but through the love of our mothers and grandmothers, they let us know otherwise. Versatile is what we are, our many shades of brown glisten beautifully in the sun while the natural textures of our hair grow toward light forming into the most beautiful afros.
Black history has shown me, through it all we can create, preserve and innovate in so many ways. My black history flows through me and my actions every day. As I raise my Black son, he will know Black history. He will understand the Kings and Queens that fought for his right to walk freely as a Black boy in America, Thank you. The importance of the shoulders on which we stand on is not taken lightly, I know God put me on this earth to serve, spread love and show gratitude to those who came before me while paving the way for those that are right behind me.
Thank you, Black History.
Reporter, Journal Inquirer
Black History means to me honoring the past, present, and the future. It means celebrating our joy and coming together to comfort our wounds from society. It means responsibility to make sure that you do your part to follow God’s purpose for your life, so future generations may live in a more just and equitable world, to fully live with no limitations. It means faith in a Higher Power who will strengthen us to push past obstacles of racism, discrimination, and hatred. It means love of ourselves and our rich culture. Black History is a reminder that our lives matter and that we have God-given value and worth, that no man can take away. Black History means legacy, which means that we should honor our ancestors who have gone on and celebrate our elders who are still here. Black History speaks truth that all need to hear and learn – no matter how painful or uncomfortable they may be, in order for America to live up to her true potential. Black History is me. Black History is shattering proverbial glass ceilings. Black History is our community rising and striving for better days to come, as one.
Poet & Fatherhood Initiative Coordinator
ECHN Family Development Center
I can feel the whips and scourges of yesterday,
Yet we are gathered here celebrating
Continuously facing an uphill task,
Pleading to be recognized.
Enough said by mouth.
Now do it by deeds
Slavery is a forbidden word
Now celebrated by two words
No longer to be hung
Simply to kneel on the neck
To sniffle out a productive life
Afterall, what good will come out of the Black Man?
So let us help celebrate a lie
Because the narrative is heavy with dye
Hoping against hope, one day
We will have a truthful say
When our tears and hard work,
The dye of lies is washed away!
Vida Veronica Ntem-Mensah
I have a dream that will become reality
The dream of equality and peace
A dream that requires but is not limited to
Respect, Understanding and non-violence
Is it so hard?
It’s truly not
If this nation can create nuclear weapons it is possible for this dream to be true
In a nation of smiles
But this time.
Not a single one is fake
Because being treated with dignity isn’t an honor
It’s the bare minimum and should be treated as so
So if I can wake up from this dream and it is not yet reality
Am I really welcome?
Coughing up ‘em
We’re in a pandemic and I don’t just mean Covid
Idiocracy spreads like wildfire
Burning everything in its way
Breathe it in, one, two, three too many times
And boom you caught it too
Grief silently lurking in a corner to grasp its next victim
Caught them and won’t let go
A hero has to come and save them
Despair flying in the night sky
Covering entire families with its black wings
With only a sliver of light
Anger slithering its way into minds
Curling up and nestling in the nooks and crannies of a brain
Countdown from ten, ten, nine, and eight…
The very first to begin it
Confusion breeding its offspring
For it was always there
Waiting and watching
In the pandemic of years yet to come
Wish to contribute to future Better Manchester Magazine community collaborations? Contact Culture Lab Coordinator James Costa.