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Posted on February 28, 2020 at 12:19 PM by Janet Lo
In William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Antonio famously states “what is past is prologue” to justify choices that he feels fate has brought him to. While I won’t give away the plot for all of you who might have some extra time to read some Shakespeare, I must say that I do agree with the underlying premise that history sets the stage for understanding the present.
History was always my favorite subject throughout school. There seems to be no other time of year that I am more immersed in reflecting on history than during Black History Month. The roots of Black History Month can be traced to 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. While initially the emphasis was placed on encouraging the teaching of the history of Black Americans in public schools, eventually by 1970 the commemoration evolved into a full month within the United States. The observance of Black History Month now celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history as well as the struggles for freedom and equality throughout history.
Regardless of your heritage, a better understanding of Black History is important to everyone’s understanding of the full history of this nation and the world. While Black History Month may be designated as such, the truth is that Black History is integral to the fabric of our collective history.
History is vitally important. Just as science helps us to understand the physical laws that govern our world, history helps us to better understand the people in the world. It gives us an opportunity to critically reflect on our past mistakes, but also helps to inspire us to do better in the future. It helps us to understand our society and ourselves. It provides us with a sense of identity. It preserves our stories. It inspires us. It gives us warning signs. It can help us to be better people individually and collectively.
History is not just important in this global way, but it plays a very essential role in how we serve the community. We must dedicate time to exploring the history of economics, politics, and traditions of Shelby County to be best equipped to tackle the issue of poverty. We must also be intentional in listening to the histories and dreams of our clients. The better we understand a person’s story, the more likely we are to identify ways to best support them to success. I am hopeful that we will all leverage this month’s focus on Black History, our collective history, year-round, to inspire us to continue be our best in service.
Dorcas Young Griffin
Director of the Division of Community Services
Shelby County Government
Tag(s): February 2020, Director