I have a complicated relationship with Black History Month. On the one hand, I am glad that it puts attention on African American history and culture. And it bothers me that this is often the only time of the year that people acknowledge African American history as part of American history. This tension grows within me every February as I look at the list of events, programs and services that are promoted during the month.
I feel the same way about the other themed months, Women's History month, Hispanic Heritage month, etc. They all have good intentions behind them. Often, it is the only way these histories and cultures are brought into the mainstream consciousness. But what does it mean that we can observe and celebrate for a month and forget about them the other 11 months of the year. It may be educational, and awareness-raising, but isn't it also inauthentic?
During the Institute, Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout described singing "We Shall Overcome" as being on sacred ground. That concept works well to describe approaching Black History Month, and other similar months that honor a culture or experience that is not your own. It asks us to come with a sense of respect, curiosity, and humility. And it reminds us that we are witnessing something that is very dear to someone. What would it be like if we approached Black History month with this sort of sacredness. How would it affect our worship, church events, and community engagement? What relationships might be forged or strengthened?
Black History month reminds me of the many people who have prepared the way for me. And I try to honor them this month, and every month. They have prepared the way for some of you as well, may you honor them this month, and every month. And if these are not your ancestors, familiar or cultural, may you approach with reverence and carry that reverence this month, and every month.
Ancestral spirit, strength giver, truth teller,
Help us to navigate this sacred ground.
May we approach with a holy humility,
And open ourselves to be transformed,
Carrying that transformation throughout the year.
In this moment, and every moment,
May we be reminded of from whom we came
And to whom we give