Happy Black History Month! Or, as Kanye West so fondly calls it, Black FUTURES Month! In honor of the richness and beauty that black people bring to the world, I wanted to make sure I talked about why it’s so important to celebrate Black History Month, as well as highlight something that showcases Black history and the brightness of Black futures. After visiting part of the exhibition on Pepperdine University’s campus in Malibu, I decided The Kinsey Collection fit the bill perfectly.
Why is Black History Month so Important?
First, I want to address why it’s so important that we celebrate Black History Month. To put it plainly, there is no American history without Black history. Before Christopher Columbus even arrived on these shores to conquer and pillage this land, Natives and Black people were here.
When the Trans-Atlantic slave trade began and millions of Africans were shipped against their will across the globe, around 388,000 victims ended up in North America. These enslaved people literally built the country we stand on today. Their work not only catapulted the United States into the leading economic world power through the exportation of agricultural items such as cotton, tobacco, rice and sugarcane, they also contributed to all other parts of society through art, literature, engineering, and more.
The white-washing of American history has obscured our understanding of the Black contribution to global society, but now its our responsibility to fix that. That’s just one of the reasons that critics have long argued that Black history should be taught year round, not just during the month of February (and I totally agree!).
According to W. Marvin Dulaney, a historian and the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Carter G. Woodson was the first to make an effort in 1926 to set a designated time to promote and educate people about Black history and culture.
Woodson envisioned a week-long celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February (because this week coincided with both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays) as Negro History Week and motivated fellow historians through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded in 1915 (ASNLH later became ASALH).
The idea was to focus/broaden the nation’s consciousness and make Black history a serious area of study. The seeds he planted eventually grew in acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week evolved into what is now known as Black History Month. Protests around racial injustice, inequality and anti-imperialism that were occurring in many parts of the U.S. were pivotal to that change. Now, it’s up to us to continue this legacy.
The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection
Additionally, I want to make sure I highlight an organization that is making a huge impact on the accessibility and transparency of Black history: The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection. This incredible exhibition celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black Americans from before the formation of the United States to present times. It showcases not only the dark points in our history, but the innumerable (and often left out) bright points as well.
On The Kinsey Collection’s website, it gives us a peek into the experiences that helped the curators, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, bring the exhibition to life. “When [they] were married in 1967, the couple set a goal of visiting 100 different countries during their life together. While traveling and exploring other countries and cultures, Bernard and Shirley began collecting art and artifacts as treasured memories of their travel experiences. As their collection grew, they soon realized that there were so many aspects about their own cultural heritage that they did not know or collect. Their passion for world culture led them to want to understand and develop a deeper connection with their own African American history and culture.”
Through their global travels, the Kinsey’s journeys allowed them to amass hundreds of artifacts, art, and other ephemera that makes up the collection we see today.
“Today, The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection travels the globe as an award-winning museum exhibition – led by the stewardship of Bernard, Shirley, and [their son,] Khalil Kinsey.”
If you’d like to check out the collection for yourself (and you definitely should!), it opens at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on February 23rd. Get your tickets here! If you’re not an LA local, you can check out part of the collection on Google Arts & Culture. Enjoy!
As Black History Month comes and goes, don’t forget to support black people and black businesses throughout the year. Change starts with you!