Let’s Celebrate Black History Month all year

As a child I loved Negro History Week and when it became Black History Month, I especially looked forward to February to learn something new. Nowadays I try to celebrate every month since there’s so much to learn and so little time.

Already in 2021, we have lost baseball great and philanthropist Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, veteran actor and icon Cicely Tyson, author Eric Jerome Dickey, and legendary basketball coach John Chaney. Interestingly, with famous people, if they’ve shared their craft and talents with us, we feel like we know them. We remember their roles, triumphs, milestones, swagger—everything—they become a part of us.

With COVID-19 raging, many of our heroes and heroines have died since last February. I am amazed that mathematician Katherine Johnson lived almost 100 years without her story of helping launch America into space being one that every school child was taught.

The movie about her work, Hidden Figures, was powerful and showed how racism and segregation held her back but couldn’t defeat her. Other trailblazers like Charley Pride used other survival tactics to succeed.

Sports legends John Thompson, Kobe Bryant, and Lou Brock were among notable deaths. Educator Joe Clark and his bat, the subject of Lean on Me, the movie, sadly reminds us that we also lost singer-songwriter Bill Withers, rock and roll inventor Little Richard, and actor Chadwick Bozeman. The death of Bishop Rance Allen, a gospel and pop superstar, left a huge hole.

His “That Will Be Good Enough” shares his lament about never having visited the Taj Mahal and other famous sites or the fact that he’d never been to Paris in the spring or the fall. It sounded a bit melancholy, but he ended this treatise with “If I can just make it to heaven, that will be good enough for me.” That said it all.

Many of Dr. Martin Luther King’s colleagues died in the past 12 months—Dr. Joseph Lowery, Dr. C. T. Vivian, Dr. Gilbert Caldwell, and John Lewis. All played a pivotal role in the freedoms and rights that we enjoy.

Caldwell, a longtime United Methodist minister and strategist, and his wife, Grace, were introduced to a new generation of youngsters three years ago through a piece on the CBS Evening News – On the Road with Steve Hartman.

The Caldwells who were married in 1957, often visited elementary schools and talked about their ministry as activists. One particular day they shared this story with a group of fifth graders in New Jersey.–in 1957, they traveled eight hours to get to their honeymoon site only to be turned away because they were African American.

They’d told that story hundreds of times but it so touched the youngsters that they each wrote the hotel and said what had happened all those years ago wasn’t right and they wanted them to fix it.

Of course, the facility wasn’t still there but its successor agreed that what had happened was wrong and they did as the students asked. They offered the Caldwells an all-expense paid 60th anniversary trip to make up for the wrong so long ago.

I shared this story with local fourth graders last year and they, too, were stunned into silence that someone would be mistreated because of their color. They vowed to pay attention and never let this type of treatment happen again.

Stories like these are the reason Black History Month is so important. Here’s an opportunity to talk about justice, injustice, equity, exclusion, and inclusion, especially during this month. Consider making these history lessons a yearlong activity. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember to be curious to listen, learn and share the historical facts and lessons you come across. Not to forget share with me at #drbondhopson on Twitter and Facebook!

Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. Now listen to her new podcast, “Three Stores, Two Cotton Gins, One Remarkable Life: The Journey from There To Here,” and meet her favorite family and friends as they share laughter and heartwarming life lessons. Look for it on this page or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

 

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