Editorial: Let’s all celebrate Black History Month in style
Black History Month is both a celebration and a remembrance, not to mention an important teaching tool in our schools. But here in Sonoma Valley, where the population is largely White and Latino, recognition of this important month is often a bit more muted than one might see elsewhere.
And that’s a problem.
For so many years, we have looked to our Black neighbors to lead us in celebrating Black History Month. But in a city like Sonoma where only 1.4% of the population is Black, according to census data, that’s a lot of work to heap on a few people.
It can feel tricky, because such recognition must be culturally sensitive, acknowledging the many brilliant contributions of Black people, along with the hundreds of years of oppression inflicted upon them.
There’s good advice to be found in a 2021 CNN opinion piece, “White parents, it’s time to do the work honoring Black history” by Melanie L. Harris, author of “Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth-Honoring Faiths,” and Jennifer Harvey, author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.”
“Some parents may know it’s important we all celebrate Black excellence but worry that participating at home might be a form of appropriation. Others realize that legacies of racial inequality and white privilege are the reasons Black accomplishments are so remarkable. Acknowledging that might feel complicated, even overwhelming,” they wrote, before highlighting a dozen ways to mark the month with children.
This includes reading the works of Black authors, supporting Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations, and acknowledging not only America’s lengthy history of racism, but the many moments of Black joy found in our history books.
“Black history isn’t just a story of the past. It’s being made today,” Harris and Harvey wrote in an important reminder for us all.
The Sonoma Valley Regional Library is marking Black History Month with events for different audiences:
- From 2 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, African Music and Arts Village will perform songs and tell child-appropriate stories in a joyous event .
- And from 2 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 25, for teens and adults, author Kwame Christian’s thoughtful talk “How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race” will be screened.
We hope to see similarly thoughtful programming and projects at our local schools and community groups. Acting Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Kaufman has been sending out resources to teachers and staff, encouraging them to mark the occasion.
There are thousands of fascinating stories to share and people to celebrate this month, not to mention interesting Black-owned businesses to support like Sonoma’s Rose Hill Art Studio and Corner 103 tasting rooms.
We encourage all readers to take part in this month of recognition — learn something new about the accomplishments of Black people, support the ongoing efforts for equality, or at least familiarize yourself with the history of Black History Month.
It all began in 1926 with Negro History Week, a concept proposed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second Black American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University.
At the time, some school districts, especially in the South, shied away from talking at all about the Black American experience, so Woodson brought it front and center. He picked February to honor the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, but it wasn’t federally recognized until 1976, when then-President Gerald Ford officially declared it Black History Month.
Created during a time when Black Americans’ stories were openly ignored or buried by mainstream media and education systems, nearly 100 years later, the month of February should be a month we all honor, regardless of our skin color.
Happy Black History Month!