Well everyone, it’s that time of year again.
Among all of the national month dedications, few seem as important to the history and trajectory of our country as Black History Month.
In many ways, the history of the Black community in the United States informs the history of the entire country. From the origins of American slavery in the South, to the Civil War, and later the Civil Rights Movement, race has been at the core of many of the biggest moments and rifts in our society.
For many people in the United States, Black History month is a good time to listen to a favorite speech from Martin Luther King Jr., a chance to tune into some interesting history reporting on NPR, or even just listen to some good music inspired by Black culture.
The trick is, while those acknowledgements are important, it’s also important to remember that we still have a long way to go. The fights of the Civil Rights movement are still in the living memory of this country. But many of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement are no longer with us.
We like to forget how recent the Civil Rights era really is.
Racial Equality: We’ve Come A Long Way - But We’re Not There Yet
Black History Month is an interesting one. Like the months dedicated to any existing minoritized group, like Pride Month, or Autism Awareness Month, Black History Month simultaneously reminds us about and honors the history of the Black community, and the living history, the challenges that still exist today.
It’s easy to look at one, and ignore the other.
As an environmentalist and someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, I can’t help but notice the impact of racism on even seemingly disconnected subject like environmental law.
But losses of the ability to forage, the right to wander, and trends that make it harder and harder to access the natural world and its resources, often date back to the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. These laws were put in place, often specifically, to deprive the newly freed Black community of the South from the resources they needed to survive. It was to separate them from the land they tended for generations.
Those legacies are still affecting all of us today, but especially the modern Black Community.
Here at Earth Song Jewelry, I work hard to make sure my business helps give back to efforts to protect and preserve the environment. It's heartbreaking to me to consider all the ways everyone in this country has been denied access to nature and natural resources. It’s even worse to consider how racism and bias gave some people even less access and agency than others.
The good news is that the world is changing. We’re getting better. Problems of racism and bias are being addressed, often more openly and productively than ever before.
Documentaries are talking more and more about the legacy of racism in this country, and pundits and politicians are having to take note. More and more ideas are coming out about how to overcome racism and create a better and more equal society.
Even social media is being used to educate on Black History and culture, and forge a better path to the future.
Each generation of young people in the United States has access to more information, more cultural exchange, more opportunities to learn about our history and think about a better tomorrow.
These changes are often too slow. Too gradual. It takes time to make a meaningful difference in the world, and that can make it feel like we aren’t making any progress.
But this Black History Month I hope you can join me, and Earth Song Jewelry, in learning more about the History and Culture of the Black Community. In learning more, we see how far we’ve come. We can also learn to see how far we still have to go.
“Don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” - Michelle Obama, Keynote Address at Young African Women Leaders Forum, June 22, 2011.
Happy Black History month!