2009 Photo by Lambert Wolterbeek Muller, flickr

Black History Month

This is the time of year when Mud cloth and Kente cloth patterns emerge within churches as celebrants of Black history reflect on collective and individual accomplishments historically.

It was Carter G. Woodson as a student at Harvard, who established the observance of “Negro History Week”, designated for the second week in February. He purposefully linked the week to the birthdays of President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist. The week’s acceptance and continuing recognition ultimately became known as “Black History Month.”

Celebrations within some African American congregations still occur to identify and commemorate the role members of the African Diaspora played in the development of our nation. John Henry Clarke suggests that history “tells a people who they are and where they come from and where they are going” and affirms that history is always current.

Maybe it’s time to end the celebration.

Currently, Black History Month is celebrated by some and virtually ignored by others; and while it’s acknowledged by scores of well-intentioned people in this country, maybe the most unfortunate fixation is that anyone, including members of the African American community, have chosen to limit their historical focal point to the shortest month of the year.

To be sure, I believe that the study of historical heritage shapes, informs, and is valuable to every people group, but the key here is to study and learn from history, not celebrate and commercialize it. Cars and everything from mattresses to furniture have block buster sales during this “celebration”. Heritage celebrations for many hyphenated groups currently exist and in far too many cases have been trivialized through “big saving’s events” and those seeking to make a buck while offering 50% off.

Perhaps the greatest contributions to the development of the nation, as well as globally, could best be related as American and Global history identifying the significance of the good, bad, and even the ugly?

I think Christians could lead the way on this given the biblical narrative and Africa’s role in the development of our faith. It just might limit the trivialization that accompanies celebrations of people, whether Asian, Hispanic or African American. Perhaps then, the end of Black History month could actually be the beginning of something better.

About the Author:

Dan Williams

Dan Williams

Dan Williams is currently the Director of Urban Programs and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Biblical Seminary. Prior to becoming the Director of Urban Programs, Dan served on the Board of Trustees at Biblical. Rev. Williams has served as senior pastor of New Life in Christ Fellowship Church in Coatesville, PA since 1990. Dr. Williams was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and resides today in Parkesburg, PA with his wife, Baleria; they have three adult children. Click here to view his faculty bio.

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