On Black History Month
Contributed by Doug Scibeck.
Black History Month has been around formally since 1976 when, during the Bicentennial celebrations, President Ford said Americans should, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”. Celebrating the contributions of African Americans goes back almost a century. I recommend going to the Museum of African American History, or http://maah.org. That is a place to find resources about the Black Heritage Trail, with sites such as the Abiel Smith School, the oldest public school standing build for African American children, and the African Meeting House, over two hundred years old it is the oldest black church edifice still standing.
The annual observance is not a local tradition. It has been international, celebrated also in Canada and the United Kingdom, for some time. For those of us not a part of the black community, there is still much for us to learn if we are humble enough to listen to our African American neighbors. Theirs is an essential part of America’s history and future.
“For those of us not a part of the black community, there is still much for us to learn if we are humble enough to listen to our African American neighbors.”
Education and communication provide the chance to enlighten and foster better relations. There is lots of support for people to learn more and communicate. Facebook hosts many groups to foster dialogue and provide information. This is not just for interracial dialogue but also support. A great group on Facebook, Black Fathers, lets men within the African American community come together and support their families as responsible fathers. There is information and resources people may not know about, but need to know in order to tear down stereotypes, to promote the positive images prevalent in our culture.
Back in the 1970’s or 1980’s the African American population grew in town. The administration started efforts to hire more minorities in order to better reflect the diversity of Milton’s community. It was a start. We need to highlight the achievements.
From the high school principal, James Jette, who works to form our youth, to the community contributions of Library Trustee Hyacinth Critchlow, the work being done by the black members of our town is part of what makes Milton what it is. Leroy Walker, among his other contributions, currently serves on the Town Government Study Committee where he is helping to improve town government. Other African Americans helping to guide the town into the future are Kevin Cherry and Clinton Graham, both serving on the Warrant Committee. Each of these valued members of the community, along with so many others that there is not space to name, need to be thanked for what they do for the town. They add their talents and perspectives to our community not for praise or recognition. They give to our community because they are integral parts of Milton. We thank them for the work and caring that makes us better as a people.
And we have Courageous Conversations. People of divergent races and social backgrounds are coming together, relating to one another, and taking in new perspectives. We have the contributions of many African Americans in Milton, helping to make us all better each day.
This month is about more than history. It is about how the community as a whole recognizes and honors a people ignored in the past. It is also an expression of gratitude for the ongoing hard work by many individuals. And is it a call to all parts of the community to come together. It is vital to make sure a significant portion of Milton is not relegated once again to the background. It should also not be just one month of the year. The ongoing contributions and conversations can help see to that.
“…is it a call to all parts of the community to come together. “
A goal of better race relations can be getting to a point where we no longer need to think about race. I leave it to others to say if we have come far, and, given human nature, it seems like there will always be a long way to go, but as long as we together keep making the effort to take the journey, then there is hope.
Other resources, suggested by Milton Neighbors:
- Article: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in America was an inspiration for campaigners in the north of Ireland.
- Amazon Prime Video pics for Black History Month
- Black Fathers Facebook group
- Black History Month: Why We Celebrate, at Milton Public Library, Feb. 17
- “Giants: Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln,” presented by author and Harvard University Professor, John Stauffer, at Labouré College, Feb. 25