By Alex Berkman
Also known as African American History Month, Black History Month has been celebrated since 1976. When President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month that same year, he called upon the American people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Ford’s words are genuine and powerful; and fortunately, his message lives on to this very day.
Black History Month was created by Carter G. Woodson. He was only a first generation free man, but would also become just the second African American to earn a PhD at Harvard. Growing up, he recognized the refusal of the educational system to teach Black history and the accomplishments of Black people. In an effort to promote change, he founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). In 1926, Woodson and the ASALH proposed a national “Negro History Week,” which called upon educators to dedicate a week towards teaching Black history. During the Civil Rights Movement, “Negro History Week” gained national recognition, and by 1976, President Ford expanded the week to the entire month of February. Each year, Black History Month, as Ford hoped, encourages greater awareness and appreciation for the richness and importance of Black history.
Black History Month has been celebrated in numerous areas of society, including sports. Specifically, in the NBA, we have seen a rise in advocacy against social injustice and racism. This past month, Lebron James spoke out on the topic. Lebron make the point that he “celebrates Black excellence every single day, every single day of the year, 365 days, and goes around and around my house in my household and the group of people I’m around” (nba.com). Lebron’s team, The Los Angeles Lakers, also recently hired Dr. Karida Brown as the new Director of Racial Equity & Action. Brown has developed a curriculum to help the Lakers staff better comprehend how to advocate for creating positive change. Across the league, teams have taken steps to further advocate for social equity. The Dallas Mavericks have stopped playing the national anthem at home games, feeling that the song “did not fully represent the [Black community],”according to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Furthermore, for the entire month of February, each NBA team rocked warm up uniforms with an identical message: “Built By Black History.”
Notably, Black History Month seems to hold even greater meaning as we reflect on this past year. In 2020 alone, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbory, and many other Black individuals were inexplicably and unjustly killed, the victims of unchecked systems of racial injustice. This sparked civil unrest and protests akin to that of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The loss of these lives was nothing short of devastating, and their deaths served as a reminder for the continuous struggle for equality. So now that it is March, that does not mean we should forget the message of February. Rather, we must live each and every day like it is Black History Month.