Thursday, February 4, 2010

Black History Month soliloquy

It's February, a busy time. This month brings us Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year, and President's Day. It's also Black History Month, a time to celebrate the many activists, artists, and leaders who fought deeply entrenched discrimination and won rights and liberties for people of color.

A couple years ago, my campus feminist group had dozens of programs planned throughout the year, but nothing for Black History Month. That bothered me, so I decided I could plan activities for the month as an ally. We assembled a panel on women in the civil rights movement, worked with the campus radio station to dedicate a segment to women of color artists, assembled a poster display on Shirley Chisholm, and put table tents in the dining hall spotlighting Carol Mosely-Braun, Dorothy Dandridge, and singer Marian Anderson.

It wasn't flashy, but I was still glad to contribute to Women's Initiative, build ties with campus groups and offices, and raise a little awareness on campus about the accomplishments of American women who had broken racial barriers and risen to the top of their fields. Working with WI gave me an opportunity to give back to the campus community, and gave me small but significant responsibilities I wouldn't have gotten at my job or from my classes. It was my first taste of feminist leadership, and I got hooked.

The point of this was to say Black History Month is great, and feminists around the country can and are contributing to BHM celebrations, whatever their backgrounds. And of course, it's awesome to celebrate women's accomplishments all year long.

Every day is a good day to celebrate groundbreaking leaders like Claudette Colvin, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm. We are deeply indebted to these brave women, who protested unjust laws and policies, and slung sledgehammers into political glass ceilings. Every day is a good day to celebrate the authors and poets and singers and academics and artists who dreamed of a better society and stood up for their beliefs through their work and their activism.

When you're organizing around progressive issues, it is easy to feel isolated and ignored, and sometimes we get discouraged. This is what the status quo wants. Black History Month and the programs celebrating our rich American history remind us we are not alone, but instead stand on the shoulders of generations of movers and shakers.

We'd love to hear how your feminist groups are commemorating Black History Month! If you want to bounce ideas or brag about your group, comment below or drop us a line at :D

This article was featured in our February 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine.

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