If I had to rank the fruits of the spirit in their order of possible importance, the quality of love would have to be number one. Love is the boundless glue that holds it all together. Love is unselfish and benevolent. Love is loyal and self-sacrificing; it is a Christ-like love which is the foundation of any culture, and all other graces. According to Romantic Legends, February is the month of love and affection. In the United States and around the world, February is also the month that holds significant value for the spiritual, familial, political, and economic influence and contribution of African American culture.
February 1st marks the start of Black History Month, a time when African American history and culture is highlighted and celebrated for its contributions, either as part of, or distinct from that of American culture. The distinct identity of African American culture is rooted in the historical experience of the African-American people, including the Middle Passage. The imprint of Africa is evident in myriad ways, from politics to language to music, hairstyles, dance, religion, cuisine, and worldviews. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, proposed Negro History Week in 1925 as a way to encourage people – not just blacks, but all nationalities, to learn and discover more about the unique events of the black struggle. The very first Negro History Week was reserved and celebrated in February 1926. This “movement” stimulated teachers, historians, students, scholars, philanthropists, communities at-large and progressive whites alike, to further endorse the effort. Negro History Week was rechristened Black History Week in the early 1970’s, to reflect the revolutionary language used to portray African-Americans. It wasn’t until February of 1976, that the U.S. President issued a proclamation declaring the second month of the year Black History Month or National African-American History Month; 84 years later, we, as a global community, continue to uphold this sacred endeavor.
The acknowledgement and employment of African-American history and culture is imperative to me, for I am an African-American woman. I have phenomenally resided in this ebony – chocolate – dark cherry coated silk that is my skin – since conception. I understand that my culture is one that has had a pervasive and transformative impact on many elements of mainstream American culture. I understand that my mere existence and legacy will manifest to be of the greatest worth. I appreciate the essence of my inner and outer beauty: from the curly coils in my hair to my full lips to my hips to my derriere; phenomenally, that’s me. I understand that I am uniquely and divinely made in God’s image. I am proud to be an African-American woman – one who continues to raise the bar for my children and the future of my childrens children.
African American literature has played an integral role in my personal growth and development as a writer and poet. As early as seven years old, I closely studied the works from the earliest of African American writers of the 18th century, such as Phyllis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, to the early 20th century Harlem Renaissance authors and poets, like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington, and I embraced the love and strength of African American literature. The works of other authors during the Civil Rights era, such as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin, further influenced my hunger for learning about issues of racial segregation and other aspects of African American life. It was these noteworthy catalyst of change that encouraged my love for writing and eccentric poetry at an early age. And so I take the road they have paved before me and I continue to strive, thrive, and develop to someday becoming the next Nobel Laureate in Literature. I continue to encourage young writers, for everyones dream begins somewhere.
I find it no coincidence that I love music. Music is like my air, and its’ continuous refinements afford me endless opportunities to inhale; explore; adopt. Jazz fusion, swing, ragtime, rap, funk, disco, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, bebop, and rock “n” roll, have been shaping African American music for centuries. In African-American culture, music is a part of everyday life. It is not only used for entertainment, but for communicating, teaching, telling history, sharing bliss, or even being sad. Just like African-American Art, it is the fabric that binds us. African-American music is typically the polyrhythmic music of the ethnic groups of Africa, specifically those in the Western, Sahelean, and Sub-Saharan regions. From the blends of traditional European hymns with African elements during slavery time – to the widespread and acceptance of African American music in American popular culture in the 21st century, the musical experience has been both enchanting and overwhelming. As a young adult, I remember when house music hit the scene in black communities everywhere in the 1980’s, starting with Chicago. I was an element of that era, as well as the multicultural movement of hip-hop, new jack swing, and go-go.
From the variations of beautiful skin tones, unique physical features, array of hair textures and styles, African-Americans are a people of beauty, style, and grace. From the head wraps, fashion, aesthetics, dashikis and spoken languages, African-Americans are a people of great creativity and diversity. From the liberation of the black church, religion, theology, and political movements, African-Americans are a people of great strength and leadership.
The love we share within our cultures, expresses the benevolent concerns we have for one another; brotherly love; sisterly love; Godly love. Love is the high esteem which God has for His human children and the high regard in which they, in turn, should have for Him and other people. What love can be higher than this? A reflection of strength, a history of truth, a symbol of faith, a determination to excel -celebrate life, celebrate love, celebrate Black History!
Love for your Tuesday and year ahead.