Guest column: Learning diversity through Black History
Ryan Summerlin February 18, 2014
I am an avid historian. I am also African American. I absolutely love finding out about what contributions African American people have made to American Society. In other areas of this country, it is far easier to accomplish this study. I have lived in Grand County for longer than 10 years. Each year around this time, I ask my friends and many students; “So what are you going to do for Black History Month?” Usually, the response is “nothing,” or “that’s not required.”
Everyone has made some contribution to the United States, so it is not surprising that many ask why we should acknowledge one group’s contribution over another. I would have to agree.
What I have uncovered so far is that Black History Month was instituted because so much of the history here in America about African Americans was altered or hidden, and that many people, including African Americans, have a hard time establishing anything (other than slavery) as a contribution to American society. The other difficulty is that there was often no record of slaves once they left Africa, so the only identity a slave had was what the master gave him. Once in America, the view of our Founding Fathers of the slave can be summed up in the U.S. Constitution: One slave = three-fifths of a person.
In order to contribute to a society, a person must have some sense of his or her own identity and self worth within that society. The purpose of Black History Month, as I see it, is to offer a glimpse of what has been hidden from our society in America. Imagine not having blood for transfusions, or not having a toilet. Imagine not having adhesives to build our dream home, or any number of inventions and contributions that African Americans have made that enhance the overall life of American citizens.
This week, I am excited to share with Grand County a small portion of the contributions that African Americans have made in the areas of education, quilting, music, military service and spiritual awakening. I hope that we can take this opportunity as a community to enlighten ourselves to the diversity that exists here in America, so that we can appreciate the world around us. History has a way of repeating itself if we do not learn from our mistakes. Let us turn from the pages of “His-story,” so that our future generations in America will begin to write “Our-story.”
Lawrence Norman is a resident of Granby