Celebrating Black History
By: Cynthia Gadsden
"What's the point of learning about and celebrating black history, particularly, if you or your church isn't black?" you might ask. Elaine Wrisley Reed, Executive Secretary of the National Council for History Education, explains that, "Knowledge of our history enables us to understand our nation's traditions, its conflicts, and its central ideas and values. Knowledge of world history enables us to understand other cultures."
Each February, congregations commemorate Black History Month with black fact quiz bowls, re-enactments of historical events, special programs and musical concerts, speakers, plays/skits, and worship celebrations. Unfortunately, too often these events are confined to a single month. Black history, though, is a living breathing entity that occurred and continues to occur daily.
While many congregations offer Black History Month programs or events, numerous others see little relevance in studying black history. However, learning about our past helps us to better know who we are, and how we arrived at this point in time. As Reed puts it, "The story of history is interesting to us because it tells us about real people who had ideas and beliefs, worked and struggled to put them in action, and shaped the present in which we find ourselves."
So how can your church not only learn about black history, but also develop year round black history habits?
* Share your church's history on race with the congregation. When were times that your church took a stand on racial equality? Were there times that your church refused to speak out? Why? Have members participate in sit-ins, marches, meetings, etc during the civil rights movement or at other times? Share their stories. Moreover, invite individuals to talk about personal and family experiences where race was a factor.
* Encourage members to participate in elections and to get involved with community and neighborhood issues or changes that interest them. Share these instances with the congregation regularly.
* Highlight upcoming television programs about African Americans. Encourage families to watch them together, and discuss them at home and church.
* Use the church newsletter and bulletin inserts to highlight well-known and little known black history newsmakers past and present.
* Develop a black history reading list.
* Create maps and timelines of significant events in your church's and community's history related to black history.
Like a patchwork quilt, knowledge of our history allows us to "piece together the story of our past." Black history is another valuable piece of our storied history.
Adapted from KidSource Online, "Helping Your Child Learn History."
Cynthia Gadsden is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.