Black History Month is still important

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, February 9, 2017

By Kenya Smith

February is Black History Month, and many locations throughout the country are hosting events and celebrations throughout the month to commemorate African-Americans who shaped America and the world.

When we think about Black History Month, we immediately think about famous people like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington. We think about the Underground Railroad, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement.

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The amazing thing about Black History Month is that it is not just a time of celebration and remembrance. Black History Month is also a time of education for both young and old.

For example, African-Americans invented many of the things that we use every day, such as the eggbeater, the traffic light, the gas mask, the comb and the heater.

Surveillance camera companies wouldn’t exist if Marie Brown, an African-American woman, hadn’t invented the first home surveillance system in 1969. An African-American man even invented the Super Soaker, a popular summer toy.

African-Americans have contributed a lot to the fields of government, religion, education, literature, science, sports, entertainment, music and the arts.

There was persecution that African-Americans endured, such as slavery, Jim Crow and post-civil rights discrimination. They risked being threatened, beaten and even martyred so that future generations would be able to vote, attend any college of their choosing, pursue any career, live in any neighborhood, and freely express who they are.

Today, African-Americans continue to face many challenges in the workplace and in the housing, educational and justice systems. They want to make sure future generations will not have to endure the challenges that kept their ancestors from reaching their potential.

Some do not understand the importance of Black History Month. Some would even say that the idea of having a month set aside for celebrating black history is reverse racism.

I suggest they try to see through the eyes of a slave, of a sharecropper, of a black person living during the pre-civil rights era, of a Civil Rights activist or of today’s black person.

If they had a taste of what it was like to live as a black person throughout American history, then they would discover why we celebrate Black History Month.

I hope they will also understand why we should set aside months to celebrate Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Native Americans and other groups. All of us have contributed so much to America and the world, and that should bring us together as a nation.

We can learn so much from each other, but we must be willing to listen to each other, because each group has a story to tell. If we listen, we will soon discover that we share common struggles and common values.

Therefore, as we celebrate Black History Month, watch, learn, listen, celebrate — and most importantly love. Happy Black History Month.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and graduate of Regent University. Email her at