As February draws to a close, we leave Black History Month behind, moving on to Women’s HIstory Month and then another month and another. While many will continue to promote the importance and impact of Black History and Black Resistance, many (more, most likely) will move on from Black History month and stop thinking about it - until a moment in the news re-captures our attention or next February. It’s cyclical. It happens every year and is true of many other national months, as well.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Black History is American History and should be a part of every conversation, lesson plan and celebration of our nation’s past, future and present. It should inform how we view past and present events - both good and bad. Black History shouldn't be relegated to one month but interwoven into all 12. And yes, in some ways, that is already happening. However, there is still much more room for improvement.
Be a part of the change.
The theme for 2023’s Black History Month is Black Resistance. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores.” Such resistance comes and has come in many forms over the years from art and music to education and business creation to large group protests and individuals taking a knee, and much more.
By recognizing how Black Resistance has helped to progress our society, we also recognize the challenges that exist and persist within this country for people of color. Learn more about how Black Resistance has changed, shaped and exposed the United States through resources such as these:
February is Black History Month - an opportunity for us to reflect on the profound impact that Black Americans have had on our country and the progress that has been made toward equity and equality over the past years and decades. But, as we take the time to remember all that has been done we cannot ignore what more we have to do. Every day offers us the opportunity in a multitude of ways to recognize the work that remains. One such reminder exists in moments that seem like positives but are in fact demonstrations of yawning gaps - firsts.
Watch the news and you’ll see throughout the year moments where Black Americans are making history by becoming the first Black governor or mayor in their state or city, the first Black American to win a specific award or hold a certain position and so on. This weekend, in fact, the NFL grants us another first. It is the first time that two Black quarterbacks will face each other in the Super Bowl - the first in 57 years, the first when more than 50% of NFL players are people of color. How is this possible?
It is possible because there is still so much progress to be made. Disparity and inequity persist. And so this Black History Month as you reflect, remember and learn, don’t forget to look forward to our country’s present and hoped for future. Then get to work. There’s much to be done.
Today is Groundhog Day - the day, in Pennsylvania at least, when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from hibernation to determine whether we’re in for a long winter or an early spring (He predicted 6 more weeks of winter). It’s also the day we are most likely to be reminded of Bill Murray’s 1993 movie in which a reporter is forced to relive the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over again until he gets it just right.
It’s a comedy, but it makes you think about what it would be like to live your life on a loop, to see no end and no progress in sight. It may be funny when a famous actor relives February 2nd endlessly, but for many individuals in real life it feels like a sad truth.
Think of young adults in foster care. So many feel trapped in a cycle that seems beyond their control - at a foster home or a group home or a medical facility, unable to see their friends or make their own choices, their future dependent on others. And think now of adults struggling to make ends meet as they wake up every morning, head to a low-paying job, and spend their evenings trying to determine how they can pay that month’s or week’s bills.
It must feel like the same day, the same frustration, the same loop over and over regardless of how hard they try to break it - Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day without hope of a romantic ending.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we aim to give young adults, whether still in foster care or out on their own, an opportunity to live a new day. We help them find the resources they need to take the next steps toward whatever their goals, their February 3rd, may be.
To find out how you can be a part of this work, visit www.rjleonardfoundation.org.