It’s not an understatement to describe the events of the past year and a half as historic, and particularly for Black Americans. We began 2020 with a COVID-19 pandemic that hit African Americans harder than any other group of Americans and exposed the systemic inequities still at the root of the nation’s institutions. We ended the year with the first black (& female) being voted in as Vice President.
The origin of Black History Month dates back to 1925, when historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, announced his idea for a nationally celebrated Negro History week to honor the numerous contributions that blacks have made to American society. Negro History Week was first celebrated the following year in February 1926 in major cities across the United States and was expanded to a month-long event in 1976, fifty years after the original Negro History Week. President Gerald R. Ford declared February Black History Month, and called on Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Dr. Woodson’s organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), whose mission is to preserve, promote and educate the global community about black life, history, and culture year-round. The ASALH aims to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to society while fighting for equality. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History works to empower black people through its education and outreach.
2022 Black History Month Theme: Black Health and Wellness.
It explores and acknowledges “The legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”
To practice good health and wellness Black people have embarked on self-determination, mutual aid and social support initiatives to build hospitals, medical and nursing schools (i.e. Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Provident Hospital and Training School, Morehouse School of Medicine, etc.) and community clinics. Many Clinics were established by individuals, grassroots organizations and mutual aid societies, such as the African Union Society, National Association of Colored Women and Black Panther Party, to provide spaces for Black people to counter the economic and health disparities and discrimination that are found at mainstream institutions.
Thanks to the rise of fields, such as Public and Community Health and Health Informatics there have been a rise in preventive care and a focus on body positivity, physical exercise, nutrition. It also opens the possibilies of exploring other dietary options such as veganism and vegetarianism, and learning the basics of gardening to grown your own fruits and vegetables. Black Health and Wellness not only includes one’s physical body, but also mentals and emotional health. At this point in the 21st century, our understanding of Black health and wellness is broader and more nuanced than ever.
Ways to Honor Black History Month
Black History Month runs all through February and television is taking part in celebrating Black voices and stories across film, television, politics, sports and more. PBS has an entire schedule of programing for Black History month. Visit a Black Museum. Donate time or money to the ASALH, the NAACP legal defense fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the African American Experience Fund (A division of the National Park Foundation,) Black Girls Code or other worthy cause.
One of the best things we can do is educate ourselves & children on the achievements of Black Americans and the important role Black people have played in this country’s history.
Suggested blog: How Travel Changes Who You Are.