Guest Column: The importance of Black History Month

During Black History Month we are reminded of the success and accomplishments we in the black community have achieved. However, we must realize that success is not by chance. There are principles that you follow to be successful. Being knowledgeable of one’s history is one such principle. 

Most ethnic communities, in an effort to enhance their children’s journey to success, establish a curriculum in their schools and in their community to teach them about their history and their culture so that no matter where they go they remain intact and connected to their history. 

They know who they are, they know their origin in the world and they know their history. For example, the Chinese know their history, the Italians know their history, the Japanese know their history and most human beings on this earth know their history. 

Yet we in the black community have been deprived for so long of the knowledge of our history. This is why, years ago, we had to fight to get any type of Pan-African studies and ethnic-based curriculums in schools and on college campuses. In some cases, we still have to fight to learn some of the rich knowledge of our ancient history. 

Our history goes far beyond the roles of George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass, and let me offer this breaking news: Our history did not begin with slavery. Our children need to know about the royalty of our history. How we played major roles in the development of this world not just in sports and entertainment as society would like to limit us to, but in the fields of religion, science, medicine, education, literature and more. 

We have been disconnected from the root of our true ancient history. If you disconnect a tree from its roots the tree dies. If you disconnect the roots from the earth the tree dies. The roots of a people is their history. It’s the history that when you know it you draw nourishment from it because your history teaches you and sheds light on the full possibility of what you can achieve. 

You become confident and connected to what you can achieve by knowing what your ancestors have done to pave the way. That achievement does not seem so far away when you know that it has a connection to your own ancient history as an African-American.

To deprive our children, to deprive our students and deprive ourselves as a whole of knowing anything about our history puts us in a position where we cannot draw nourishment from the root of our own history because we have been cut off from that root. So in most cases we are left with a Eurocentric root of our history that does not nourish us. It only deprives us of all the nutrients of an unbiased history that has not been watered down and tainted by a society whose efforts were to keep us “12 years a slave” and counting.

Where there is deprivation there is a sense of no value. This sense of no value can cause us to branch away from the root of our history and draw our nourishment from the sunlight of the history of others. This photosynthesis affects the fruit that we bear. 

We are taught to admire and psychologically memorize the historical accomplishments of others: “In 14 hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue …” We were more focused on memorizing a lie about a discovery than focusing on the truth of our own history. This is just one example of the misguided history that was embedded in us as children. Their history produced discoverers, great thinkers, Inventors, builders of empires, while our history produced slaves. That was the history lesson taught. 

In the black community, the longer we are deprived of the true knowledge of our history the longer we will experience a disconnection. It’s this disconnection that produces skepticism regarding the richness and the royalty of our history and how our history reaches far beyond the infamous timeline of 1619. 

We cannot solely rely on others outside of our community to educate us about our true identity and history. We all have to take the initiative to research and educate ourselves, our children and our community. That is why the acknowledgement of Black History Month is important. However, teaching, studying and knowing our history each and every day in each and every month is even greater.

Mr. Hobson is a Riverhead native currently living in Virginia.