Written by Margot Elise, Content & Social Media Manager at Jopwell
Every Black History Month, I am torn between feelings of anxiety and inspiration that evokes both passion and discomfort; mostly due to the nature of the holiday and the circumstances we’re currently experiencing. This year, we’ve been burdened with a whole new provocation that has challenged us to find thoughtful and unique ways to cope with the Black plight. Black history lives prevalently in my core and although this month plays a significant role in American history—for many of us—it’s just another month.
The socially appropriate way to celebrate being Black has been modernized as a month-long program that combines our history, contributions, and accomplishments into a conglomerate of information that is shared among some of the most popular media outlets. For Black people, Black history runs deeper than a few articles and social media strategies.
I’m often conflicted by how I feel about this month, but as I get older and gain more experiences, it becomes easier to grasp the importance of celebrating during a selected time frame to reflect on the culture’s history and my own history. As a Black woman, I feel as though there is a lot of pressure to be vocal about my sentiments of the month, my journey through unprecedented times as a woman of color, and how my upbringing has groomed me to be the person I am today. Instead, I’d like to reflect on the ways that I can continue to be unique in being a multidisciplinary Black woman, personally and professionally, while also appreciated all that myself and those in my network have accomplished. This year, I’ll dedicate this month to working with intention and allowing myself the grace to rest after productivity.
A lot of times, Black women are compartmentalized into a monolith of what the media’s portrayal of us looks like. This visual depiction is constantly changing form, but often a very stereotypical representation of what’s popular at the moment. Growing up and even still today, I haven’t often been exposed to a Black woman—as we’re presented in the mainstream—that I identified with. The problem with that is there isn’t enough range of voices being heard. Thus, I am faced with a choice; do I conform to what the world wants me to be, or do I make a place for myself in a world that is occupied with a version of myself that is acceptable. These are theoretical situations that Black people have to think about on a regular basis and during this month, I am obliged to sit with my heavy thoughts on how I’m processing it all. For me, this month is more about education. I am learning more and more that because I feel as though I don’t need a designated month to celebrate my heritage, this month has been altered to be a month where non-Black folks can learn different perspectives of the Black experience.
If we didn’t have Black History Month, would people still celebrate Black people and culture? I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know what a world without Black History Month would look like. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been using the month of February to actively support the culture. Buying Black, eating at Black restaurants, posting tons of Black people on my social accounts, etc. I’ve learned to embrace this gift of focusing on my people for 28 days and as the content industry grows, so will Black History Month. While staying true to myself and acknowledging that this month never really ends for me, I also have to acknowledge that it does indeed end for other people, which is what makes it so imperative to the culture.