February, shortest month of the year, and also Black History Month. It evolved out of Negro History Week in the 1960s and advanced to a federal observance beginning in 1976.
Yet, this Black History Month, a time when we should be celebrating and uplifting the achievements of Black folks across this nation and throughout history, we are seeing instead a most egregious subversion.
In our legislature and many others across the country, bills have been introduced (and some debated and passed), that would prevent schools from teaching topics related to race, from teaching a complete history of our country that acknowledges not only the brave beginnings of our nation, but the cruel ones as well.
These pieces of legislation seek to erase history, to paint over it with an idealism that is as false as it is incomplete. If they are allowed to pass, Black History Month will become a celebration in name only, as we would not be allowed teach the actual lessons pertaining to Black history. Disallowing education on race and racial equity prevents us from learning about past mistakes so we don't continue or repeat them. Restricting multicultural education stunts our growth and change. We will never be able to change the things that we don't learn or understand. We can’t let fear of the shame that comes from facing these hard truths, prevent us from educating ourselves about them. More importantly it is more harmful to relegate ourselves to ignorance. Willful ignorance is the greatest enemy to progress.
Consider the impact of this as a step backward, sending the message that difference is to be feared and silenced - that unity cannot be born out of recognizing and reckoning with our collective past. We are committed to growing our advocacy work to confront actions like these. We call on you to react against legislation at every level that seeks to create and deepen silence, and that conjures the ghosts of the past as gatekeepers before an equitable future.
We leave you with a poem by Robert Hayden, the first Black American to be appointed as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress:
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.