Every year during Black History Month radio stations, churches and schools find ways to honor or acknowledge Black History Month. When I hear about the Civil Rights Movement and the mistreatment African Americans had to endure, I always think of how difficult it would have been to live during that time. Even though we didn’t focus on Black History enough in school in my opinion, I think we got more than most students did. When I went to college, I was shocked that most of the students from Chicago had never heard of Emmett Till. He was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly whistling at a white woman; he was visiting from Chicago. I learned of his story in elementary school.
I often think about how it would have been to be a child living in Mississippi in the 1950’s. I have had “racist moments” throughout my life but few that were blatant. The most vivid memory I have and the first experience of discrimination occurred when I was five. In my hometown (West Point, MS) there is country club that is predominately White named Old Waverly. That day, the club had an event for all the children in the town. My mom took my older brother Aaron and I to enjoy the activities. We walked around for a bit on the beautiful grounds and decided to enjoy a hot air balloon ride. We walked up to the Caucasian man operating the massive aircraft in anticipation of an exciting ride. The man quickly said he was no longer giving rides so we walked away not thinking much of it. When we were about 16 feet away, a few White children walked up to the balloon operator. I watched expecting them to be turned away as well but they weren’t. I watched the children smiling and waving as the balloon slowly left the ground. I will never forget the feeling I had in that moment. The feeling of rejection and unworthiness cut deep. I didn’t cry but if your insides could, mine were weeping. This happened all because we were Black? I remember asking my mom why they were allowed to go up in the balloon and we weren’t. I can’t remember what she said but I already knew the answer. I can recall how her energy shifted. I could tell she was bothered by what happened even though she tried to pretend to act like her usual self. I always felt there was no difference in myself and my White friends so I never could wrap my mind around why someone would treat me differently because of my skin color.
I can’t imagine having to experience situations similar to that or more severe and cruel on a daily basis. It leaves a little cut and you are forced to find a way to continually heal yourself. That situation hurt me but I know others encountered things that were 100 times worse back in the day. I hold a great deal of respect for my parents and grandparents because the Old South was nothing to play with and they were able to become successful in spite of their circumstances. Both of my parents were the first to graduate from high school in their families and attend college which was a HUGE feat in the 1960’s-70’s for Blacks in the South and really anywhere. During Black History month I choose not only to honor inventors and African Americans in history books but the individuals in my life who have made Black history.
How did you celebrate Black History Month?