As a kid growing up, February was a pendulum that swung from far left to right. We’re still in winter and that means snow, but you still have to go to school in the cold. It’s a shorter month so one step closer to spring but it’s still dark earlier in the evening. It’s Black History Month which is big and important, but feels the same every year.
Now that last one I’m sure can go either way with the masses (I’m well aware and that’s ok). Growing up as the only black face in most of my classes and many of my activities, could make February an extremely exhausting month. I found myself holding my breath for the better part of 28/29 days.
When you’re a young kid, unless someone has drawn your attention to the differences between you and those around you it doesn’t strike you right away. You are able to move through the world with rose colored glasses on. For the most part, you are blissfully unaware of the adult concerns around you. Then we get older. Life has the uncanny ability to present you with many occasions where you confront what makes you different, what can set you apart. That’s the thing about February, it rolls around every year. Even as a kid it made me very aware of the differences in the world. And that can really begin to weigh on you, both physically and emotionally.
The beauty of getting older is that when reality makes an appearance, it also can teach you something valuable. If you allow it to. I learned that what may make me different also makes me… me. It makes me an individual – makes me positioned to understand the world around me in a way that only I can. To see the world as only I can see it. Yes, it often makes me stand out and that can be uncomfortable. But it also compels me to stand up and speak up when I see something that needs to be addressed or corrected. Being different can give you the chance to look around at your neighborhood, city, or world and understand something that you wouldn’t, if you weren’t you.
I was getting older, living more of life when this switch occurred that made me see February differently. I was able to appreciate and understand the opportunity to learn, celebrate, and love this history that can be fraught with both dreadful landmines and beautiful keepsakes. As I got older, I was able to see the value and importance of shining a light. Not only for adults, but for everyone down to the youngest in the population. Even for myself and my own emotional wellness. Not everyone will be able to instantly get what that means, to value and hold dear something so big and multifaceted. To see through the darkness and make conscious strides to embrace the light.
Months that highlight specific groups or cultures give us the chance to learn from the differences of each of us. To appreciate, celebrate, honor, and shine lights on what is so important about what those perspectives bring to the table. We exist in a time where too many people are happy to incorporate division into daily life. Where we are fine with the status quo and hear all too often that nothing will ever change.
But we can make a point… we must make a point to resist the urge to retreat to what is comfortable, and familiar. We can take on the responsibility to learn, and to challenge ourselves. To grow our perspective and increase our understanding of the world, not just from our own background and story, but from the history and lens of someone else. Think what the nightly news would look like if more of us honored each other’s past… if we chose the light over the darkness.