How important is Black History Month, really? Growing up in Kenya I never quite understood it. How could I when all my life I had been surrounded by people who looked like me?
I recently moved to America and for the first time in my life, I was a minority. This was extremely intimidating, and I wanted to remain in the background quietly playing my part.
Black History Month was first celebrated in 1976, to recognize the central role African Americans have played in the history of America. Since then, it has been adopted by other countries, such as Canada, and the UK in October. The idea came for it in 1915, in response to the lack of information in the public domain on Black people, and it has evolved to be a month where we are encouraged to have real and hard conversations about issues affecting Black people as well as uplifting Black voices all over the world.
While not everyone can relate to it, being a minority is a reality for millions of people. This is why representation is extremely important.
During Black History Month, I feel empowered because visibility is given to Black people and I discover role models who look like me. It is a time to celebrate and acknowledge how they’ve paved the way for me and the Black community. For example, I would have never known of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden if I hadn’t read NASA’s Black History Month post celebrating these phenomenal women. These three pioneering women have become figures of inspiration to me, and other Black women and girls. Their story is one that lets us know that we too can break into white, male dominated spheres and drive change in this world.
With my newfound appreciation of Black History Month since moving to America, I have realized how extremely important it is for brands to uplift and champion Black voices. Changing a brand’s logo colors to mark Black History Month may seem nice but advocating for people, standing up for what is right and leading change is what sets a brand apart.
Black History Month helps the Black community to not only feel seen and heard, but to be seen and heard. The stories that are told go a long way to empower and impact someone’s life. I hope to see more brands choosing courage, standing up for what is right and embracing allyship.
Image: Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.