Black History Month is a celebration! It is not a time to say that one group is greater than another, but it exists to recognize and respect the resilience of a people amid obstacles they were never meant to overcome. Whether they are engineers, scientists, artists, athletes, inventors, or entrepreneurs, Black people have contributed to the society we all are a part of in the USA and around the world.
American history has not been written in favor of Black people. Movies, television shows, news and history books themselves have distorted views on who Black people are, where they come from, and how they came to be. Black History Month is meant to change the narrative that has been accepted for so long. It is a chance for us to reflect on “…our 400-year-old sin,” as Rev. Scott Dudley speaks of it, as well as the achievements in spite of that.
Black people invented all sorts of things that we use today. Notable innovations such as the first successful open heart surgery, the common day street light, and the first automated oiler for steam-engine trains were brought to our country by brilliant Black people, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Garret Morgan, and Elijah McCoy. Jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, rock & roll, and funk music all trace back to Black culture.
It is worth noting how many Black women have contributed and continue to enrich our society. Katherine Johnson, mathematician and scientist (portrayed in the film Hidden Figures), helped NASA launch the first human-crewed mission to the moon. The first self-made millionaire, Madam CJ Walker, was Black. Modern-day trailblazers continue to fight for equality as well as equity in different realms of American society that were never considered “for Black people.” Oprah Winfrey is the first Black woman to become a billionaire. Misty Copeland is the first Black Principal Dancer of the American Ballet Theatre. Gabrielle Douglas is the first woman of color (of any nationality) and the first Black gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games.
There are so many things to thank Black people for throughout our history, but it does not end there. Today, Black people continue to be the face of popular culture. Hip-hop is now the most popular music around the world. Black people make up roughly 75% of the professional athletes in the NBA and NFL. And with access that was never given before in the corporate world, there are more and more Black business people, lawyers and engineers creating our future.
If we are all made in God’s image, we should celebrate this new narrative. We, as Christians, have the opportunity to help shift the storyline from degradation to celebration.
While the world may demean Black people, let’s honor the accomplishments of our brothers and sisters. We can show the world a new way, the third way, to reconciliation.
“A candle never loses its light by lighting another.” – Rumi (Persian poet)