A Word from Your Crossroads Team: You’re reading the fourth post in a series of blogs we are writing on the topic of Celebrating Black History Month. During our series in February, you’ll enjoy posts from Dr. Park, Dr. Ware, Dr. Badal, Dr. Kellemen, Professor Baxter, Dean Schrader, and our Registrar—Dountonia Batts. This series, like everything we do at Crossroads Bible College is designed to glorify God by training Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world for Christ. For our first post, by Dr. Park, visit The God-Created Worth of All People. For our second post, by President Ware, visit Color Me Love. For our third post by VP Kellemen, visit 4 Portraits of Gospel-Centered Black Church History.
Should There Be a Black History Month?
There has been quite a lot of discussion the past several days in relation to the benefit of Black History Month to the African American community and the United States as a whole. Stacey Dash and Alfonzo Rachel believe it has outlived its advantages. Ms. Dash states, “There should not be a Black History Month … because we are all Americans.”
Public rejoinders from famous Black Americans have ranged from harsh to politically cute while critiquing her. An organization called Because of Them We Can produced a YouTube video as a rejoinder to Stacey Dash’s comment. The video affirms the necessity of telling the black story because of our strengths … accomplishments… contributions and beauty. To ignore this some would say is lunacy.
From a more sophisticated perspective, Alfonzo Rachel echoes Dash’s concerns. On his YouTube channel ZoNation, his comments start with, “I wish Black History Month was over already.” He is not ignorant of present social disparities between blacks and whites; however, Rachel trusts the original intent of Black History week (originally) has been fulfilled. Black experiences have been integrated into American history. Furthermore, seeking recognition from people you loath (white people), he believes is hypocritical.
Rachel also sees it as narcissistic because Black History Month from his perspective has been reduced to little more than a psychological boost for blacks’ egos. After hearing both critiques, I am left wondering is there a middle ground whereby both Dash’s and Rachel’s concerns can be addressed without sacrificing Black History Month. I will try to navigate their differences and arrive at a “Yes.”
Voices from the Past
Back to the past is the way to the future, it’s from these past voices that we can find the stable ideology for affirming Black History Month. This balance allows us to honor the past without becoming egotistical about our present selves.
The first voice we should bow to is the LORD God almighty Himself. We must not forget that He is the reason we are free. Being rooted in His liberty does not allow us to focus on ourselves. By remembering what He said to Israel, we can find sure guidance for ourselves. “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you. This should be our rallying cry” (Deuteronomy 15:15). Like Israel, we cannot boast because many others shed their blood on our behalf.
Building upon God’s crescendo, Milton C. Sernett, in his book, Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, recounts the words of Daniel Alexander Payne. He states, “Enter the great family of Holy Freedom; not to lounge in sinful indolence, not to degrade yourselves by vice, nor to corrupt society by licentiousness, neither to offend the laws by crime… Welcome to habits of industry and thrift—to duties of religion and piety.” Pastor Payne challenges the black community to esteem the freedom rendered to us by honoring God via well-regulated lives. Herein, we cease to be the sole focus, without losing responsibilities.
The Black Experience Is an American Experience
Nor does Pastor Payne’s speech omit the responsibilities taken on by others to ensure African freedom. He cites to work of Congress and President Lincoln in their call to let God’s people go. However, the mention of the above does not do justice to the 100s of thousands of Union soldiers who surrendered their lives to unify a nation and set African Americans free.
Thus, there is no escaping the fact that Black History is authentically an American experience.
Because Black History is an American experience, it should be viewed from the above two perspectives. The first would be our commemoration of what God has done for us. Like the feast days of Israel, it should be a holy convocation for us. We can lament the suffering of our fathers and mothers. Finally, we end this month-long gathering with a celebration of a hard-won liberty and a commitment to live godly lives before Christ.
As a nation, it would be a holy assembly of the public for repentance. Herein, the people mourn the sins of our fathers and thank God for forgiveness and future unity. This would make Black History Month a series of national holy days. These days would call the entire nation to look to Christ as its past and future Healer.
Black History as American History
When celebrated properly, Black History as American History would allow us to remember the past without floundering in it. We could still honor the accomplishments of all those involved without losing sight of a greater goal. That aim would be for us to look to the Author and Finisher of our faith in order to build the kind of future we cannot do on our own. It would ignite the soul of ethnic reconciliation on a national level. This kind of looking back to gaze forward would give hope to a nation that is becoming more divided daily. Our new commemoration would return us to our founding spiritual roots. It would force us to reconnect with who Christ has called to be. It would force us to look at what we have become in light of Christ’s design for us.
This type of Black History addresses the concerns of Stacey Dash and Alfonzo Rachel. Their call to unite us as people without neglecting the horrors that separated would be met. It honors those of us who believe that there is still value in black history, but believe it ought to go beyond self-aggrandizement. It honors God’s call for us to remember what we have been redeemed from without forgetting the Redeemer.
Black history that is grounded in American History and rooted in the acts of God in history will call people to repentance, which will have value for the entire nation. It would remove human action from center stage and allow the light of God’s glory to shine.
That is a history worth remembering and celebrating!