Growing up, I dreaded Black History Month. We’d learn about the same 10-20 black people, and everyone in the class would turn to the black kids and expect us to know everything about them. But while I was definitely black, I was also a first generation American. So the people we were learning about were as unfamiliar to me as the whitest European-American in the room.
Year after year, dread grew and evolved into resentment. Why did we have to learn about black history? It wasn’t even all black history, it was just Black American history. And as such, really should have been taught all year long during regular American history. Or the definition of black should have been expanded to include all black people around the world so we could learn about black people in Africa, which would have been way more interesting and personally relevant to me, as the daughter of African immigrants who heard lots about what was going on back home.
Finally, Black History Month faded into a marketing gimmick in my adulthood, as few workplaces paid it any attention, and I was relieved to finally be able to ignore it. But a little piece of me felt guilty. Here I was, a black person, turning my back on acknowledging other black people. It was shameful.
Fast forward to my sewing life, which started nine years ago (as of this writing in 2020). As I got more into the craft, I reached further and further into the digital realm to find real people, and this search led me to Instagram. Imagine my surprise when some of the sewing accounts I followed began dropping major facts every February! But what was even more surprising were the facts themselves – stories of Black Americans that most of us reading the post had never heard of, despite the great works they accomplished in their lives, and the adversity they endured. I finally understood the importance of Black History Month.
Yes, it is Black American History Month and yes, it really should be taught all year long as part of regular American history. But it isn’t. It never has been. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, despite the numerous and pivotal contributions of Black Americans to this country throughout its entire history, dating back to the Revolutionary War (ie, before there even was an America). So it is important that we all take February to learn about, acknowledge, and reflect on the contributions of black people to America in any and every way we can.
2020 – Today is Tomorrow’s History
This year on the blog, I’m contributing to this process for the first time ever – both on the blog and in my life – with the theme ‘Today is Tomorrow’s History’. I’m researching contributors to the sewing and craft world who are part of our recent history, as well as giving the floor to contemporary sewing creators. All posts will are linked below for easy access. I hope you find much to think about, learn more about, and explore.