Culture fascinates me. I love hearing about where people are from, what it’s like there, what their families are like, what do they eat? I love hearing languages, accents, and different dialects. I like seeing different hair styles and clothing choices from around the world.
Hearing people speak proudly of their heritage and their sense of belonging and identity has always been cool to me. I’ve felt envious of people who know their roots and where they truly come from. Mainly because I didn’t grow up knowing much about where I come from.
I had always been told that we are, “African American,” but would think, “What do I really know about African culture?” I didn’t grow up celebrating any traditions specific to countries in Africa, or eating African cuisine. I don’t even know any family members that have come to America from African countries. It’s just always been a box to check off for my ethnicity.
I’ve more so related to the term Black American. Simply becuase I know for a fact that I’m a black person, and I was born in America. So, I just have always felt it makes more sense.
Growing up as a Black American, I have wondered,
“What history do I have to be PROUD of?”
I was taught that at one point in American history black people had their confidence and pride beaten out of them.
I knew that the whole purpose was to make them feel worthless, make them afraid, scare them into obedience and servitude. I knew that black people were stripped of roots and intended to be dumbed down. Taken to different parts of the world with no paper trail and forced to work…for free. For white people. Not exactly a fairytale.
All I really knew (growing up) about being black in America was that, “we used to be slaves and now we are not.” I also knew that, “segregation was once legal and now it’s not.”
But, there was not much pride to be found in that. Am I really supposed to be MOST proud black people are now counted as a whole person instead of three-fifths of one? That should have already been the case. Those facts didn’t fill in the blanks for me. Those facts didn’t make me proud (not in the “let me tell you a great story” kind of way) of my history. Surely, black people had to have been more than just slaves – what else?
As I’ve grown and learned more about American history that has been influenced and literally built by black people, that’s began to change. Living in the era of revived pride and influence, and having educational resources so readily available, it’s pretty awesome.
It’s like a new surge of pride and identity.
I realize that I do have a culture to be proud of. Black American culture!
I know now that Black History is more than slavery, even though that’s all we were taught about in school. I know that there were many more influential people other than Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks (not to discredit them in any way) that have helped progress this country.
I know more now about how much black people have contributed to this experience of life in America. From traffic lights (Garrett Morgan), to potato chips (George Crum), to Ice Cream scoopers (Alfred Cralle), to safety features on elevators (Alexander Miles), to the first mechanical clothes dryer (George T. Sampson), and the first home security system designed by a black woman in 1969 (Mary Van Brittan Brown). The more I learn the more proud it makes me. The more I realize that I do have roots…they’re right here. The more it fills in the blanks.
I recently saw the movie Hidden Figures. For the first time ever, I saw a movie about BLACK WOMEN that didn’t depict them as just The Help (still a great movie by the way). I was able to see that we really are KIND, SMART, AND IMPORTANT.
I am so thankful for the real reminders that black people have contributed infinitely to this country. The more that is exposed of positive black history and influence, the more I realize how deep my roots truly run.
The more I realize that I truly do have a lot to be PROUD of.
Happy Black History Month!