The theme for Black History Month 2021 is The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity and is set every year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History®, an organization founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the famed African American historian known as the “Father of Black History.”
Yes, Black History is rich and has many ways in which to be celebrated. My black heroes are Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin; you see the pattern. On rainy days, I still enjoy Emerson, Frost and Thoreau.
Representation: I am so grateful for the experiences that I have had in my life thus far, not just with the family that raised me but also for my teachers. I can recall wonderful ladies who helped my young mother as she worked through college while raising a family. They took care of me and my siblings. It was a gentler time, then, when the community truly was a village. I can remember that my teachers and the ladies that I saw at church were always elegantly dressed and were well-spoken. I think my sense of grace can be attributed to them as well as my parents. It is part of the Identity and Representation that is part of the theme for this month.
Identity: I treasure the black heritage that my family has instilled within me. My African roots go back to the Tribe of Dan. My great uncle researched this years ago and it was the place where the people of Israel entered the promised land. How ironic, my great grandparents Jim and Elvira Fite (former enslaved children of God) owned land in East Texas and worked to make sure that their children would live in a world full of promise and prosperity. My great grandmother taught us to continue to strive to do our best at all times, and when we falter look to God for guidance and grace. I am multifaceted and have accomplished great things and have also experienced failures and disappointments. But through it all, I have learned to trust God, forgiveness, and respect my fellow man.
Diversity was evident as well in my family. We are African American with Irish and Choctaw Indian (Choctaw) roots. Through my Choctaw roots, we were taught to have the character of strength and durability through peaceful means if possible. This sense of Diversity is shown in how my family raised us to persevere and to be patient while helping others. The relationship between the Choctaw and Irish is chronicled. The Choctaw had their own burden but offered aid to the Irish during the Irish potato famine. My mother often tells me of my Irish grandmother who served dinner on a lace tablecloth and had tea time each day. What a heritage and I am so grateful! I guess that is why I love people. I just see them as they are, Human Beings. We are constantly working to make the Human Race better, regardless of your lot in life.
Black History is so important because if we do not, as George Santayana says, “…learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past, are condemned to repeat their mistakes. Those who do not read history, are doomed to repeat it. Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, are destined to repeat them.”
It is incumbent upon us to put into action the lessons we were taught; to embrace diversity and share experiences to make this world a better place to live in peace and harmony. It’s the Diversity that makes us, unites us, and keeps us strong.
With Gratitude, Love, and Respect to my Ancestors,
Rhonda C. Arnold