This is what she had to say:
First I would like to thank President Felix for this opportunity to speak to you all briefly today. Also, I would like to think about my fellowship back home, and those here at WTS who have shared advice and/or counsel so far. In honor of President Felix’s request, I would like to share with you all what Black History has meant to me as a believer.
“I would like to first remind, or for many inform you how this celebration began.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson was an African man born in 1875. He was the son of Anne and James Woodson who were formerly enslaved humans. His parents were both illiterate and his father, who also assisted the Union soldiers during the Civil War, supported his family as a carpenter and farmer. They were extremely poor, but lived life with joy because the day that these two humans become free was the happiest day of their lives.
Due to their poverty, Carter was unable to attend school regularly. Fortunately, he was an exceptional self-taught student. By the age of 20, he was able to attend Douglas High School and all African American schools in West Virginia.
After earning his diploma, he later attended Berea College in Kentucky at the age of 26, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in literature. Next, he attended the University of Chicago and received a Bachelor’s and master’s of art by the age of 33, in 1908. In 1912 (37) he completed his PhD in history at Harvard University, becoming the second African American to earn a doctorate there.
As a paying member of the American Historical Association, Dr. Woodson became frustrated with racist misrepresentation and exclusion of African American history among many scholars. As a result, he joined forces and established The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915; now called The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. Woodson described the purpose of the ASNLH as the “scientific study” of the “neglected aspects of Negro life and history” by training a new generation of Black people in historical research and methodology. He believed history was for all people, not just the historians.
In 1926 he promoted the first Negro History Week. He worked to preserve the history of African Americans and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”
Being inspired by the foundation laid before them, the Black United Students and Black educators at Kent State University expanded the idea to include the entire month of February in 1970, 20 years after Dr. Carter’s passing. Since 1976 every USA president designated February as Black History Month.
What it means to me?
Black history to me, means hope and proof. Hope that my people will school rediscover who they are, a narrative even beyond 1619. Proof that we are indeed intelligent, capable, warriors, soulful… and human.
Black history to me, moves me to marvel at how my people learned to express themselves through letters, poetry, songs, and the pulpit while learning a new tongue they did not know. I can only imagine the sound of our voices in our native tongue.
Black history to me, is a biblical reminder of salvation and the longing for a King to come. If our voices are full of the gospel (music) now, I can only imagine the sound in our native tongue.
Black History is a reminder that my ancestors knew the balance of justice, peace, and inclusion. I mean think about it, have you ever known my people to reject others without a cause?
As Dr. Carter once wrote, “It is not so much a Negro History Week as it is a History Week. We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in History. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hatred and religious prejudice.”
However, in the context of the injustice my people have experienced here, I believe it is only equitable that our stories be uplifted. Not only in this month, but throughout world history as a whole.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson sought to create an organization that preserved and taught my people their history. For that, I thank him, countless of my ancestors who came before him, and those who continued after.
I can’t help but mention my deepest hope for Black history, which is to someday discover our ethnicity. For as many Africans believe: in order to know where you are going you must know where you come from. Roots help you grow, and if the root is in good soil that tree will bear good fruit.”
— Zakaryah Zion
Now it’s time to ask yourself