Black History Month: A Time to Think Bigger

 In Colorado Spirit

Welcome to the Weekly Well-Being Connection! Each week we will share advice from our clinical experts on ways to care for your mental health and well-being throughout COVID-19.

Thank you Samaria Neely, Colorado Spirit Counselor, for writing this week’s post! 

When the Colorado Spirit team teaches Psychological First Aid (PFA) , we talk about how actions to build community and connections are crucial to navigating stressful times and tapping into our inner resilience. We invite you to consider actions you can take to build community and support resilience and wellness as we celebrate Black History Month.

Black History Month: A valuable tribute or is it still relevant?

As we shared in last week’s post, February marks Black History Month, a tribute to African American men and women who have made significant contributions to America and the rest of the world. This is a time when we can be reminded about what it means to be an African American. Black history isn’t just about the bad times we’ve been through. It’s about integrity, leadership, and determination. The question that faces us today is whether or not Black History Month is still relevant. Is it still a vehicle for change? Or has it simply become one more school assignment that has limited meaning for children. Has Black History Month become a time when television and the media stack their Black material? Or is it a useful concept whose goals have been achieved? After all, few could deny the presence and importance of African Americans to American society. America has changed dramatically since 1926 when Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week in Washington DC.

Carter G. Woodson – Introduces Black History

No one has played a greater role in helping Americans know the Black past than Carter G. Woodson. Woodson was the second Black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard. To Woodson, the Black experience was too important simply be left to a small sphere of academics. Woodson believed that his role was to use Black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplifting. By 1916, Woodson had moved to DC and established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and Culture, an organization whose goal was to make Black history accessible to a wider audience and to increase the visibility of Black life and history, at a time when few institutions and publications took notice of the Black community, except to dwell upon the negative. Ultimately Woodson believed Negro History Week—which became Black History Month in 1976—would be a vehicle for racial transformation forever.

Black History Month is a way to examine the past

Despite the profound change in race relations that have occurred in our lives, Carter G. Woodson’s vision for Black history represents a means of transformation and change that is still relevant and useful. African American history month, with a bit of tweaking, is still a beacon of change and hope that is surely needed in this world. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the Black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but, how far there is to go.

Anybody who pays attention to American social affairs and politics knows that we still have much work to do in order for this nation to truly live out its creed that everybody is “created equal.” The lessons of Black History Month provide us with a way forward by examining our past. There are many stories that have yet to be told about the history of Black America. Black History Month inspires us to search beyond the typical— and to seek out the extraordinary. The stories are waiting; we just have to go and find them. 

Now is the time to think bigger

If we want to grow a stronger community, we need to start now, with every opportunity that presents itself in our daily lives. We’ll never get there until we start, until we take action and are intentional about our growth in what we celebrate and choose to ignore. We need to think bigger when it comes to appreciating Black lives. In fact, Woodson himself wished to see the acknowledgment of African Americans’ past become a regular daily occurrence rather than be relegated to a single month. Create opportunities in your homes, around your dinner tables, with your co-workers, neighbors, and community at large to build awareness and generate discussions about Black historical figures, race, and beyond. When we do this, we begin to see each other as human beings and less as the color or race that we come from.

Black History Month serves us well today

Black History Month continues to serve us well. In part because Woodson’s creation is as much about today as it is about the past. Experiencing Black History Month every year reminds us that history is not dead or distant from our lives. Because it helps us to remember there is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.

What can I do?

Here are just a few ways to transform Black History Month into a year-long celebration:

  • Keep learning (podcasts like 1619 can be helpful)
  • Diversify support by following minority influencers, brands and companies that align with your beliefs and values
  • Pay it forward by volunteering in communities of color
  • See us as individuals
  • Support Black businesses
  • Donate to Historically Black Universities and Colleges
  • Read books by Black authors
  • Sign up to receive news from Black organizations
  • Call out racism and prejudice in your community and work space
  • Support the Black media, Black press, and the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA)
  • Learn the lyrics for Lift Every Voice and sing (check out this link to see the lyrics, hear a recording of the song, and learn about the history and significance of the song)

Would speaking to someone help?

To speak with someone in the Colorado Spirit Program about stress related to the pandemic, please call 720-707-6789 or visit our web page at www.allhealthnetwork.org/Colorado-Spirit

For information about other services at AllHealth Network or to get connected with ongoing behavioral health support, please call: 303-730-8858.

AllHealth Network is continuing to provide service via telehealth or by phone and our Crisis Walk-in Center remains open 24/7. To learn more about what other community mental health centers are doing, please visit The Colorado Behavioral Health Council COVID-19 website.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are in need of immediate assistance, please call the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

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