Black History Month is upon us and what does that mean? More commercials on BET? Maybe to some.
But to me, and perhaps every other person raised as an Army Brat, it means much more. As with every other cultural month/observance, it means a CELEBRATION; a celebration both of what makes each culture unique and of what underlyingly makes us all the same; human...American.
One look at my profile picture could probably tell you that I am not myself, Black. However, growing up the way I did, in such an eclectic and diverse environment as the U.S. Army and other services provide, I was perfectly comfortable joining the African American Culture Society (AACS) with my roommate my freshman year of college and other cultural clubs throughout my undergrad experience. This particular club was very unique in that its membership wasn't what most people would think given its name. It was founded by two professors, husband and wife, one White/Cherokee, the other Black, who had gone through a lot in their day just to be together. They welcomed us all - members consisting of all ethnicities, backgrounds and genders - into their home for meetings and fellowship where I learned more about Black history, culture and contributions than I ever had in any history book. We each shared stories of our own cultures, went to local schools and spoke on the contributions of them to our great Nation, and provided a presence at various events to educate others.
With education, there lives understanding and where understanding lives, ignorance and hatred are dissipated. This was one of my first life lessons in being born into a military family; that we are all as much the same as we are different. I attended schools with student bodies rich with cultural lessons. Overseas in DoDDs schools we were American first, everything else secondary. We were proud, united; we had huge 4th of July celebrations. With each cultural month came a celebration on base, where everyone was welcomed to share in festivities. In school, we had assemblies highlighting each month with education interwoven in performance and song. I, myself, would also perform Tahitian/hula dance when Asian/Pacific Islander month rolled around. The best statement to hear coming away from such events/assemblies was "Wow, I didn't know that."
Perhaps as we near the end of this month, some of us can find ourselves saying that very thing. If you're not privileged to be a part of a military community where these kinds of "aha" moments are readily available at work, in your neighborhood or at school, pick up a book by Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes or Clifton Taulbert, there are surely some to be found within their pages, as well as some good reading.
"Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another's uniqueness." - Ola Joseph
"We should all know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." - Maya Angelou
"We are of course a nation of differences. Those differences don’t make us weak. They’re the source of our strength." - Jimmy Carter
I am proud to have grown up in, and to work for an organization that CELEBRATES with me...