February is synonymous with a lot of things but the biggest is Black History. It is the month set aside to specially celebrate the history, struggles and joys of being black.
Originally an American phenomenon to celebrate African-Americans, the concept has been replicated in several countries and now has a global observance of some sort.
For Africans, especially those living in Africa, the full significance of the month-long celebration might not hold as much sway as it does for African-Americans or other blacks in the diaspora. But it should. You might be asking what this means for Africans. First, let’s start from the beginning.
The concept of Black History Month dates back to 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week". This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 20, both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
The thought process behind the week was for the recognition of black people. Woodson felt deeply that at least one week would allow for the general movement to become something annually celebrated. It wasn't until 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, that President Gerald Ford expanded the week into Black History Month.
There has been a history of friction between Africans in Africa and African-Americans in particular because both parties do not feel regarded enough by each other and there is a general back and forth about the acknowledgement of the unique struggles of both groups.
Black History Month can serve as a time for reflection on both ends. It can be used by Africans to research the history and struggles of other black people, especially African-Americans. It can also be a time for learning more about African history in general.
As a people, African-Americans have been subjected to racial injustice, some of which reached boiling points in 2020. Now, more than ever, there ought to be unity of purpose among black people globally.
The theme of Black History Month 2021 is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity," chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Family is an important concept in Africa and outside it – generally in black communities. It is our strong unifying identity. As we explore subjects under this theme and reflect on ways to strengthen the family unit, let us remember to unite our own larger family – the human race. Stay tuned to our cultural heritage programmes this month via our website www.ozozalifestyle.com and our social media handles: www.twitter.com/ozozalifestyle