By Cheyenne Peat-Davis

The name Black History Month may be self-explanatory, but what exactly does this month mean to the black community? This is a month where we celebrate some of the most recognizable black names, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcom X, and well, the list goes on, but to many this just means posting a quote from one of these great figures on social media and going on about their day. However, to those who truly appreciate the meaning of this month, it is a month of coming together and remembering and celebrating the sacrifices and strides made by a people who have seen oppression in this country for longer than they have seen freedom. 

Eighteen-year-old high school senior, Deondre Ruth, reflects on the current realities that many in the black community face in today’s America in his poem “Live”:

I see parents tryna give their kids a better future getting sprayed
A brotha tryna make it out the hood just got slain
The system has evolved but the motives remain the same
Tear down anything that’s not white
Damn what a shame.

They murdered Huey p Newton
Killed Malcom x
MLK is gone
Anybody that isn’t like them is next
Just another statistic in their book full of checks

But what do ik I’m just more likely to be incarcerated w/out trial
Proven guilty before innocent 
Shot first before questions asked

I was never meant to pass
More likely to skip class 
I’ll probably die young 
More likely to commit crimes
Or write rhymes
About guns or 
Weed I smoke
Trying to rid the pain that they’ve invoked
Within these chains and this rope
Tied to my soul as I lose hope

I’m just an average black kid tryna do the impossible 

Ruth, who says his poetry is “usually related to current events or [his] mood,” says he was inspired to write this poem because of his “personal experience as a black man in America and how I see other minority groups being treated.” When asked for his thoughts on Black History Month and its’ importance he states “I like Black History Month, it’s nice, but I feel as if it’s seen as the only month to promote black history as if we’re not making history every day. For most, that month is the only time we support black businesses or teach actual back history and after that last day of the month that black love and unity seems to get brushed under the rug. Now I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, I’m just saying we should keep that same energy as long as the blood keeps flowing in our veins and the oxygen is in our lungs.”

His words call to attention the real meaning of this whole month. If the point of studying history is to do better and learn from our mistakes, then would it not be right to assume that Black History Month is meant as a time for us to not only actively reveal the past of black Americans, but also become active in ensuring a future for us which is different from the future many will have written for us? Deondre also states that he believes the biggest struggle the black community where he is from faces is “unity.” 

Yes, this is a month to celebrate and to look back, but this should also be a month of action. This should be a month in which we remind our community that we, black people, are in fact making history every day, and though this month highlights these successes, we should let the action carry over into every single month of the year. This should be a month of motivation and bonding and finding unity within our own black communities, whether they are our neighborhoods, schools, churches, or even online black communities. 

In light of having examined Black History Month from a presumably unique perspective, let the remainder of this month be about action and creating lasting bonds in the community. Change this month into one that is just as much about action and participation as it is about celebration and appreciation. In doing so, may these principals carry over into your everyday lives throughout all the days of the year.