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The Significance of Black History Month

A question has been asked. What is the historical significance of Black History Month to you? In response, I must ask these questions. Can I count the stars when I look into the sky, on a clear, crisp, cold Connecticut night?  Can I count the grains of sand beneath my feet when I walk along the wild, warm, welcoming shore of Waikiki Beach? Can I count the red roses, rehderodendrons, and rhodanthemums on the Rose Bowl floats? Can I count the heartbeats of my ancestors who were snatched from their homeland, brought on horrid slave ships, buried in watery graves and banished to a foreign land? No, I can not. I find attempting to find words big enough, bold enough, bright enough and beautiful enough to explain the historical significance of Black History Month to me an equally daunting task as any of the above.

It is difficult to measure the significance of Black History Month because it is work in progress. With the passing of each year, it grows. From the first footstep of the first African slave who touched the American shore to the many slaves who built a nation from the cotton fields; from the colored soldiers who marched in the Civil War to the Tuskegee Airmen who served in World War II; from Colonel William Davis to four-star General Colin Powell, it grew. From Ida B. Wells who headed the Anti-Lynching League to Rosa Parks, a woman too tired to stand on the bus one day in Montgomery; from educator Mary McCloud Bethune who started the National Council of Negro Women to Marian Wright Edelman who founded the Children's Defense Fund, it grew. From Colonel William Davis to four-star General Colin Powell; from Lady-of-Song Lena Horn to first Lady Michelle Obama, it grew.

From Langston Hughes poetry that led to the Harlem Renaissance to Maya Angelou who led a new generation of poets; from Jesse Owens to Magic Johnson, it grew. From the March on Washington to the Million Man March; from Dr. Martin Luther King who had a dream to President Barack Hussein Obama who built the dream on hope, it grew. As it grows, it is difficult to measure the significance because of the many men, women and children who had dreams, ideas and beliefs, who suffered, toiled and died to make this a better nation for each and every person of every race, creed and color.

Black History Month gives a proud people the opportunity to focus on sharing with the nation and with the world the accomplishments of a proud people who persevered against the odds, who stood valiantly in the face of storms, who made countless contributions to humankind in the arenas of environment, politics, art, health care and social welfare. They did it all with grace, dignity and determination. I am so proud of them, that I want to shout it from the roof top.

Black History Month is a significant celebration of the place from which we, as African-Americans, were brought and the lessons we have been taught. So, I say in answer to the question, Black History Month is as significant to me as the air I breathe, the earth upon which I walk, the wind which blows around me, life's sustaining water and the sun's fire which keeps me warm. It is my heritage.

[Ramona Toliver can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]

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