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A Reason to Celebrate and Share Our History

By Cris T. Clay

We Americans have become one of the most diverse countries on the planet, as well as one of the most envied. We continue to set the trend for the modern world for all others to follow. The question that continues to linger in the minds of many people during February is why do we continue to celebrate Black History month given all of these positive changes?

This one month of the year has been set aside so that all Americans can honor the past of a people who were brought to this country in political bondage. This month allows each and every American to celebrate the rich traditions of African Americans while at the same time celebrating those aspects of their own culture around their own positive contributions to society.

Black History Month is a time when people of African ancestry can come together in memory of our rich past, a past that has largely been hidden from us. It is a time when we are given the opportunity to learn about many of our contributions and accomplishments, which have historically been taken for granted.

Black History Month is a period when the younger generation can take time to sit and listen to their elders share heartfelt moments of their own experiences and struggles when they were young. It is a time when all can cry together over all those souls that died during the passage to this country on slave ships. It is a time when we can cry about many of the laws and societal rules that this country has adopted that continue to hold us in bondage even without the chains.

It is also an opportunity to correct many of the misrepresentations, misunderstandings and fallacies of African American culture. Black History month promotes opportunities for open dialogue and personal interactions between many cultures. These conversations and interactions can lead to a better understanding and appreciation for what experiences and daily dilemmas each of us goes through as we all try to make contributions to our families and our larger society.

Eventually, Black History Month will be recognized as one of the first real frontal attacks of this social construct known as "race." Perhaps then people will come to understand that there is only one race in this world and that is the human race.

And finally, Black History Month is also the one month of the year that we all come together in celebration of what "Can Be" if we as a society are open and willing to embrace the past, just as we embrace the future. This month will go down in history as the one true month in America where sharing and caring is the main theme for all peoples, and hopefully the rest of the world will follow.

Cris Clay is executive director of the Psychology Department's Community Re-Entry Program and a member of the University's Black History Month planning committee.