February is Black History Month! Though we are delighted to use this time to honor our people, for BLM Boston we are 365 Black, will continue to live Back, work Black and love Black everyday of every year. This starts with Sankofa. This starts with the foundation.
How did Black History Month come to be?
Carter G. Woodson is considered the Father of Black History. This was not just a result of his deep study within his doctoral program at Harvard, it was also in part due to his advocacy and desire to document and teach Black history. This led to the Launch of “Negro History Week” in 1926, which then became Black History Month in February 1976.
Carter was born in 1875 to Anna Eliza Riddle Woodson and James Woodson who were once enslaved. He is the fourth of seven children, and like many of our people worked as a sharecropper. He was also a miner in New Canton, Virginia. Woodson was largely self-taught, and excelled quickly at school. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a historically Black fraternity founded at Howard University. Despite his educational achievements, he wasn’t allowed to attend the American Historical Association conferences, even though he was a dues-paying member. It was clear to him that the white-dominated historical profession wasn’t interested in including Black history. He saw Black excellence and contributions as "overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them." He fought diligently for freedom and launched Negro History Week during the second week of February, honoring birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The concept was then expanded to Black History Month, “to extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history, all year long”.
In addition to history, Carter G. Woodson was also a prominent and skilled author. Many of the concepts he explored in his works are extremely relevant today. One text we look to for context in our own movement is The Mis-Education of the Negro. This text is a great example of how the past teaches us about the present. Among many key ideas, he argues that for many years, the education system oppressed Black students rather than excelling them and encouraging their potential. Woodson analytically expresses miseducation and where inferiority is rooted.
“Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators: 'that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.”
“At this moment, then, the Negroes must begin to do the very thing which they have been taught that they cannot do.”
Woodson advocated for a new education system, led by Black professors to meet Black students' needs and taking the study of Black life seriously for the first time.
Further, Carter G. Woodson argues that the current education model is a “strategy for social control, designed to prevent Black people from fighting for political, social, and economic equality”. Serving the Black community requires first understanding that community and then education is the first step towards a lifetime dedication to racial equality.
“If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
Education today neglects to include many historical achievements of Black activists, communities and historians.
“What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice… The bondage of the Negro brought captive from Africa is one of the greatest dramas in history, and the writer who merely sees in that ordeal something to approve or condemn fails to understand the evolution of the human race.”
This is one reason why BLM Boston has decided to uplift lesser known Black heroes, theorists, activists and truth tellers throughout this month in order to showcase the multitude of voices that have fought for Black liberation.
How can you help out during Black History Month?
The first step is to refrain from performative activism: ask yourself, how can I get involved in my community in a way that creates the world we seek? Black tokens, rhetorical flourishes and images of different skin tones aren’t going to cut it. Words without executing an appropriate action plan might help you sleep at night, but actually normalizes the problem. It’s up to the individual to remain educated; do not rely on others to teach you Black history and Black worth. Embrace the study and scholarship on Black history, all year long, as Woodson teaches. The examples are ubiquitous. For instance, one can further investigate the heroes and concepts we’ve highlighted in our Black History Month series. Seek opportunities to learn more and be intentional about your growth. One place to start is by visiting our community partner Frugal Bookstore as well as NoName’s Prison Program Book Program. Another action item is to show up. Come out to mutual aid efforts, advocate for justice and spread the word about on the ground efforts, such as our Youth Programs, that will help us extend our reach. Learn about grassroots community programs outside of the nonprofit industrial complex, and support them. And most importantly, be brave; call out instances of injustice, microaggressions, while being both self critical and accountable.
We’re Hiring Two Part-time Positions!
Black Lives Matter Boston is recruiting a team of highly motivated people to join the Black Radical Abolitionist Movement. We are currently seeking two part-time positions, a Development Coordinator and a Strategic Development Planner! These positions will be based out of our Boston office, with the opportunity for remote work. Learn more and apply:
Strategic Development Planner
We continue celebrating Black progress throughout this month and beyond. Thank you for joining us.