Black while at Tech

Photo courtesy of Journey Sherman

Ever since I can remember Black History Month has been about commemorating the lives of Black activists, scholars and everything in between.

Whether or not it was portrayed that way in grade school is a different story.

It seems like just yesterday that my predominantly white elementary school was attempting to teach us about all the great Black figures in history.

Unfortunately, we would learn names and faces but would never dive deep into their stories.

The photos and displays would stay up the whole month, but we would only ever spend the first day of the month discussing it.

Instead of a celebration of Blackness, I always felt the month was only meant to memorialize or lament those that had died for a bigger cause.

Which it is, but why can’t it be both? I believe this all boiled down to the “white guilt” my teachers brought into the classroom with them.

They equated Black History Month to being a somber remembrance and nothing more.

Some said the word “Black” like it was obscene while others didn’t say it at all.

We’d gloss over the evil done by white people, but highlight the deaths of Black people they killed.

Not only should we be celebrating the work and achievements of Black pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass and many others, we should also be lifting up the Black innovators of today.

As a kid, I had to go home to learn about all the current ground breaking work being done in science, math and the arts by Black people.

After the tumultuous events of this past summer, it seems as though various forms of media are taking this year’s Black history month as more than a marketing ploy.

Recently, big names like Netflix and Hulu have put in place collections of films and television shows that exemplify Black representation (and I don’t mean movies like “The Help”).

By having a vast array of different media to choose from Black and non-Black youth now have the opportunity to view various Black experiences.

The reason this is so significant is that these forms of media have the capability to mold the minds of younger people.

Something as simple as seeing Black actors cast as the protagonist and not as the comic relief or token of diversity, is phenomenal.

Being able to experience Black culture and immerse yourself in it across time and across genres creates a more empathetic world.

There is no longer an excuse for cultural ignorance or claiming that the Black experience is monolithic.

All the cultural knowledge an individual wants is at their fingertips.

I challenge you to watch a film about Black love, Black joy or Black achievement.

Although we do need to be cognizant of Black suffering throughout history, we should not be spoken about only when we are killed or being brutalized.

Cheer us on for the accomplishments big and small.

This month Tech has done a phenomenal job at procuring Black scholars and activist to be featured on our social media and as guest speakers.

It is truly once in a lifetime to be able to attend a lecture by Angela Davis, and a virtual one at that.

Likewise, by sharing the stories of Black creatives and pupils, it creates a platform for Blackness to be celebrated on a large scale.

Black History Month should be a time of both remembering those that came before us, but also a time to look ahead at how much we have achieved.